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Categories > Skin and Scalp Care > Treating skin problems

Summer essentials

It’s summertime and the living is easy—until you or your child ends up with sunburns, bug bites, rashes and cuts. The best way to counter them? Be prepared. Stock up on these medicine-cabinet essentials:

Must have: Sunscreen

What to look for: Choose sunscreen that’s water resistant, has an SPF of at least 15 and is “broad spectrum.” The American Academy of Dermatology puts its Seal of Recognition on products that meet these criteria. And don’t forget lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Apply it: Slather an ounce (about a shot-glass full) on sun-exposed areas of the body 15 to 30 minutes before heading out. Reapply every two hours—or as soon as you towel off from a swim or after heavy sweating.

Must have: Bug repellent

What to look for: If you’re spending more than three to four hours outside or you’ll be in a spot with plenty of nibble-happy insects, try a product with 20 percent to 50 percent of the chemical DEET (don’t bother with more than 50 percent; it won’t offer you more protection). If you plan to spend less time outdoors, look for repellents with less than 20 percent DEET or one with less than 7 percent picaridin or lemon eucalyptus oil.

Apply it: Spray just enough to cover exposed skin and clothing. Don’t wear it under your clothes and don’t spray it on your face. While some people worry about DEET’s safety, the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed it safe for human use—just make sure to apply the product exactly as directed. The American Academy of Pediatrics says don’t use anything higher than a 30 percent concentration of DEET on children and don’t use DEET on kids under age 2 months or lemon eucalyptus oil on those under age 3.

Must have: Poison ivy prevention

What to look for: Over-the-counter bentoquatam lotion (Ivy Block®) forms a coating on the skin to help block poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac oils from triggering rashes.

Apply it: Put it on 15 minutes before you head out and reapply at least once every four hours for as long as you may be exposed to the plants. Bentoquatam is flammable, so stay away from fires and open flames when applying or wearing it and ask a healthcare provider before using it on children younger than 6. If you do come in contact with poisonous plants, wash your skin in cool water as soon as possible.

Must have: Antibiotic cream

What to look for: Antibiotic creams such as bacitracin, Neosporin and Polysporin keep a wound’s surface moist and help keep infection-causing bacteria from getting in. Minor cuts and scrapes will heal fine without creams, but these products may help speed healing and reduce scarring.

Apply it: Put a thin layer on the wound after cleaning it. If you want, cover it with a bandage. Long or deep cuts and those that won’t stop bleeding should be checked out in the emergency room.