In Houston, and perhaps in a lot of other places summer and intense sun exposure having been a little slow in showing up this year.  Well, good.  We’ll take that.  But with summer just about upon us, it’s important to keep in mind that adherence to sun protection is particularly vital in children because of thin skin and less pigment (melanin), and evidence suggesting higher risk of later melanoma with frequent childhood sunburn.  So  anything that facilitates the process of protection of great benefit,  especially because frequent reapplication is necessary during water activities.

A recent  article in the publication, “Consultant for Pediatricians”   presents the case of the use of a relatively new form of protective products, sunscreen sticks.   Like  lotions, creams, and sprays,  sticks some products contain only agents  those that physically block solar UVA and UVB radiation, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, while others add organic chemical absorbers which affect UVB only.  The article points out that while many parents have a preference to avoid the chemicals in the latter, the authors prefer the combination products for children beyond six months or of any age with sensitive skin.

What are the advantages of the stick products?  Several.   Unlike creams and lotions, they will not trickle down the skin, making them more comfortable and acceptable near the eye.  They are also easy to apply to the really sub-exposed areas of the face such as nose,ears, and cheeks.  Their general convenience makes the frequent reapplication more convenient and quicker, providing a more reliable means of getting the children protected every hour or two when water play can cause loss of that protection more quickly.

They also  offer several advantages over spray products:  they avoid the risk of the chemicals in the spray aerosol from getting in the eyes and nose, are more likely to contain both the forms of protection mentioned above, and provide an easier and more reliable techniques for application that is more evenly distributed and more thoroughly applied.  So adherence–acceptance and reliable use–is the bottom line important advantage. And the container size is small and handy.

The article listed well over a dozen specific products with SPF’s ranging from 28 to 50, and varying combination of ingredients, though most were titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  The products vary in age use recommendations, water protection effectiveness, and specific facial use or face and body use.

An article on sunscreen should always either start or end with what might be the most important point:  sunscreen should never  be regarded as the only (or most important) component in protection from sunburn.  Time of day, duration of exposure,  sun-protective clothing and hats should always be the first tiers of protection.  And don’t forget the sunglasses, even in very small children.  Hats and sunglasses make for cuter pictures as well.

Acknowledgment:  Suncreen Sticks in Children: An Adjuvant Method of Optimal Sun Protection, by Antonov, Garzon, Morel, and Lauren in “Consultant for Pediatricians,” April 2014. HMP Life Sciences Division