Sunscreen for Teens: How Do You Get Teens to Wear Sunscreen?

Cynthia Bailey, MD|February 24, 2014

sunscreen for teens: sun screen tips from dermotologist dr. Cynthia baileyWhat’s the most motivating information you can discuss with the teenagers you love to get them to wear sunscreen every day?

Wouldn't you think that a discussion about skin cancer, death, surgery, and scars would do the trick?

  Actually, nope! The threat of wrinkles, age spots, and old-looking skin is what will motivate your teens to apply sunscreen.  According to a study just published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology this month, you’ll be most effective if you talk to your teen about how the sun will make their skin look prematurely old.

Sunscreen for Teens (and Adults Too): How to Keep Skin Looking Youthful

A Scientific study has proven that sun exposure causes wrinkles and age spots. We know that sun protection keeps skin looking youthful. I've found this to be true in my dermatology practice for the past 25 years. I like to educate my patients. For teens, the “penance” for coming in and asking me about acne treatment is my talk about sun protection. No teen escapes it! Over the years, I’ve watched when their eyes glaze over and that’s helped me refine my spiel. Yes, some teens also like to see graphic photos of skin cancers and scars. But, I've found that what really holds their attention and motivates them is information about wrinkles, skin thinning, melasma, and freckles. They don’t want any of those in their future. To remove the last vestiges of doubt, I tell teens to look at the skin of the adults in their lives. I tell them to compare the outer surfaces of an adult’s arm to the under-surface for the proof – seeing freckles and crepe-like skin with wrinkles on the outer surface and baby smooth perfect skin on the under-surface usually does it! Which would they prefer on their faces, necks, and chests in 10 or 20 years? I remind them that when they are 30 years old they WILL still care about how they look. I love seeing the moment of clear understanding dawn across their faces. On subsequent visits I love hearing them describe their sunscreen as an integral part of their daily skin care routine. I see it as an important legacy for me. So, talk about wrinkles next time you broach the sun protection subject with a teen you hold dear to your heart. Show them your arms or the sides of your neck. That’s where the wear and tear of sun exposure really shows. It’s preventable and they are young enough to avoid it with daily use of a good broad spectrum sunscreen. Yes it's even better to get them to also adopt good sun-avoidance practices like wearing a broad brimmed hat, wearing sun-protective clothing, and staying in the shade. But, you must take one step at a time with new converts. I find that asking a teen to “go all the way” with sun protection gets me that glazed over look again. If they’re spending the summer in the sun as a life guard I may get the Full Monty but otherwise I’m at least thrilled with daily use of a good sunscreen on all of their exposed skin.

What’s the best sunscreen for teens?

Most teens have oily skin and at least a little acne so an oil-free sunscreen with no pore-clogging ingredients is best.

Elta MD UV Clear SPF 46 best sunscreen for teensMDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Sunscreen best or teensCitrix Dr. Bailey dermatologist recommended Sunscreen for teens Solbar Zinc dermatologist recommended Sunscreen for teens I believe that the mineral zinc products give the best protection, especially against the highly aging UV ray called UVA. It means for the best anti-aging effect look for sunscreens with a minimum of 5% mineral zinc oxide listed as an active ingredient on the back label of the tube or bottle.

Zinc oxide sunscreens are the best!... Other people were using SPF 50s and burning.  Because mine had zinc it worked and my skin didn’t burn like theirs. Brenda W, Sebastopol

Want to know more about how to keep your skin from prematurely aging due to the sun? Click below for my articles and sun protection advice:

Do You Need A Sunscreen in Winter or in the Morning or After 4PM?

What's the Best Sunscreen for Endurance Athletes?

What's the Best Dermatologist-Recommended Sunscreen for Oily Skin?

Conclusive Scientific Proof that Daily Use of Sunscreen Prevents Skin Aging 

What's the Best Sun Protection for Your Skin and Eyes?

Interested in my comparison of sunscreens so you can pick a product that fits your needs?  Click here to see my Sunscreen Comparison Chart. 

If you have found these sunscreen for teens tips helpful, please show your thanks by commenting on, sharing, “liking,” Google+, tweeting, and “pinning,” using the social sharing buttons on the top and bottom of this blog post with friends and family. 

Sincerely, Dr. Bailey Skin Care Team

Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude to © Daniel Koebe/Corbis

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