Dr. Ana Duarte, division director of dermatology for Miami Children’s Hospital, founder and president of the Children’s Skin Center and consultant to Coppertone, offers “Fit Life” readers these back to school sun protection tips:

What do parents need to know about sun protection during the school day?

Duarte: It’s important to ensure that children are protected from the sun’s rays throughout the entire school day. Although parents may be applying sunscreen to their children before they get on the school bus, ideally it should be reapplied by the time a midday recess begins, to avoid potentially risking unsafe sun exposure and sunburns. Morning application is a great start, but it’s also important that sunscreen be reapplied before recess or other outdoor activities, if permitted.

Many U.S. schools have rules and restrictions around the usage of sunscreen, because it is an over-the-counter drug. While parents recognize the importance of protecting children from the sun, they may find policies and regulations tricky to navigate if they aren’t well informed about them first.

The Coppertone "Making the Sunscreen Grade," program is an educational campaign that provides tools to help educate parents on the importance of sun protection during the school day and year-round. On www.Coppertone.com, parents can download a sun protection guide that offers steps they can take to make sun-smart habits a priority during the school day.

What do parents need to know about sunscreen and what type of sunscreen is the best for children?

Duarte: It’s important to remember that sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every two hours and/or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. I tell my patients to be vigilant when they’re near water, because the reflection can intensify the sun’s rays. If they’re going to be in and out of the water, they should be using a water resistant sunscreen and reapplying more frequently. 

I like going ‘back to basics’ when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen. First and foremost, look for a sunscreen that is broad spectrum (protects against both UVA and UVB rays) and an SPF 30 or higher, which is the official recommendation from the American Academy of Dermatology. The new FDA labeling guidelines also make it much easier for consumers to find what they’re looking for on the packaging.

Spray sunscreens are great but for sensitive areas, try a sunscreen that is oil, fragrance and dye free. One example is Coppertone KIDS tear-free SPF 50, which is specially formulated to protect and keep children’s skin soft and smooth. The hypoallergenic and ultra-gentle formula is moisturizing and won’t sting or irritate the eyes.

Do clothes suffice in protecting the rest of their bodies?

Duarte: A white T-shirt typically has an SPF of about seven when dry and about three when wet, so I like to recommend a holistic approach to sun protection year-round, especially during recess, field day and other outdoor activities at school. Parents should talk to their kids about their own sun-smart routine, making sure to incorporate elements such as a broad spectrum sunscreen, sun-protective clothing, sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, if allowed.