Sunscreen for Sensitive Children

If your child is sensitive, you’ll need to get creative with sunscreen.

I have 2 kids. My older daughter has very fair, sensitive skin and is incredibly sensitive to textures. The second daughter, not so much. When it came time to put sunscreen on my first bundle of joy, we encountered some resistance. To put it mildly. The second thinks sunscreen is hilarious and fun. Go figure.

Sensitive kids honestly feel the sunscreen differently than most people. Here are some quotes from sensitive kids I’ve known: “It feels like I can’t get away from it. I feel trapped.” “It itches. I don’t like itching.” “It’s so slimy. I can’t get it off.” “It smells bad in my nose all day long. I can’t get away from the smell.” “It burns. It hurts and it burns.” (with no visible signs of irritation)

No wonder they don’t want to wear it.

So here are some tips to help parents and kids apply sunscreen so their perfect little bodies will be a little safer.

  • If the child has sensitive skin, do a patch test on the inner, softest area of the arm. A reaction will usually occur within about 12 hours but it may take up to 3 days. Some kids with sensitive skin will not get a reaction if the sunscreen is washed off at the end of the day. Others will react no matter what.

How about kids who are sensitive to texture? Tricky to say the least.

What doesn’t work:

  • No amount of reasoning will work. Take my word for it. Telling them they’ll get cancer in 40 years if they don’t calm down and let you slather on the goo today, doesn’t register in their minds at all.
  • Bribery might work once or twice, but beyond that, not really.
  • While it may seem like a good idea to hold the kid down and smother on the sunscreen, I can tell you, that will backfire. When it comes time to leave the house next time and the time after that, the kid will be nowhere to be found. Also, she’ll just rub it off.

What might work:

  • Apply the sunscreen when the kid is sleeping. If your child is a deep enough sleeper, you might be able to gently rub some on. This too may backfire, however, if your child is a light sleeper. Mine started waking earlier and earlier each day to make sure I wasn’t leaning over her bed sneaking on the evil cream.
  • Create a song. I like this one because it’s fun and can break the tension. “Sunscreen is delightful, it smells so yummy.” (while you’re putting it on) “Sunscreen is wonderful, now hop like a bunny!” (after you’ve finished)
  • Have the kid do it herself. I know, I know, the mess can be atrocious. She’ll miss spots and it takes foreeeeever. She’ll also get used to the texture and feel in control of her own body. Both excellent investments in time.
  • Create a routine. “In our family, we ALWAYS put sunscreen on before we put on our hats.” Or “shoes, sunscreen, hats.” There will still be resistance but the odds of getting the sunscreen on do increase.
  • Try oil sunscreen. And different brands with different textures. To a kid who is sensitive to texture, sunscreen A may feel completely different than sunscreen B. To the average person, they may feel exactly the same.
  • Try to find out what exactly is bothering your kid about applying sunscreen.
  1. Is it the hysteria in mommy’s voice as time passes and she is becoming later and later for that meeting? Try starting the routine earlier so you’re truly calm and not feeling pressured.
  2. Is it the feeling on her skin? Try different brands.
  3. Is she relating it to a previous cream problem? My daughter held a grudge against cream for ages because I’d used some on a rash and it made it much worse. She thought, therefore, that cream was always going to cause pain and intense itching. Including her as an investigator during the patch testing helped a lot to ease her worry.
  • Give up. If you are having a hard time, have your child wear long sleeves and long pants. Light cotton, silk, or sunsuits can be entirely preferable for a kid who feels oppressed by goo all over her body. A little cream on the face may be possible if you promise that it doesn’t need to be slathered all over the body.

So good luck with the sunscreeen.  I hope you and your sensitive kids will find comfortable, creative ways of dealing with it.

Published by kimcallaghannd

naturopathic doctor, children's health advocate, foodie, mom

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