Every year around this time, as I kiss my children good night in the calm, dark quiet of their rooms, I smell something that fills me with dread: Sunscreen. In the chaos of evening activities—making dinner, little league practice, homework enforcement, and kitchen cleanup—baths and showers sometimes get skipped, and the children spend the night still slathered in the stuff.
But how bad is it to let a child go to sleep with sunscreen on? The quick answer is: Not as bad as you might think.
What happens if you leave sunscreen on overnight?
A 2006 study even found the sun’s damaging effects can be multiplied when sunscreen is left on too long—but, that’s when you are still out in the sun wearing old sunscreen, thus bolstering the argument for frequent reapplication. But what about leaving it on overnight? A Google search will deliver you a plethora of beauty and skincare websites advising you to definitely not do that, using strong words like, “cleansing your skin at night is not optional” and “simply washing with soap and water isn’t gong to cut it.”
But what is it actually going to do to your kids? Not a lot. The only real risk, as Dr. Jody Levine, a New York-Based dermatologist, told New Beauty, is that “it can unnecessarily dry out the skin or clog the pores.” Phew. That’s it?
Rest assured, you aren’t letting “bad chemicals” penetrate deeper into your kids’ skin by leaving it on them overnight. (FYI, Lifehacker has already addressed whether consumers need to be afraid of sunscreen ingredients—and the answer is no.)
The long and short of it is—leaving sunscreen on doesn’t give the skin’s natural oils any place to escape overnight, which can indeed lead to clogged pores and potential breakouts. While it’s obviously not ideal to go to sleep with a pore-clogging substance on your skin, you can rest easy that nothing nefarious is happening to your child while they sleep—except, perhaps, the formation of their first pimple.