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Physicians need to be prepared to counsel patients on why and how to protect themselves from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation, including the proper use of sunscreens. In this article, we review the interplay between UV radiation, sunscreens and the skin, highlighting current controversies and recommendations surrounding sunscreen use.An important concept is that excessive UV exposure has long-term damaging effects on the skin beyond the immediate sunburn. Recent discoveries of the role of UVA radiation in skin cancer development have set high standards for broad-spectrum coverage to be met by sunscreens. Current evidence does not support an association between sunscreen use and melanoma, systemic toxicity or vitamin D deficiency. Although sunscreen application is the most common modality for sun protection, many people do not use it correctly. Regular sunscreen use during childhood and adolescence can significantly reduce lifetime incidence of skin cancer; therefore, targeting children in pediatric offices regarding unprotected UV exposure may be a practical approach.Sunscreens continue to be a major method of photoprotection among the public, offering numerous benefits that clearly outweigh potential risks; however, optimizing the use of sunscreens, especially among children and adolescents, remains a major challenge.