Jennifer Garner: I Bribe My Kids to Put on Sunscreen

03/15/2013 at 01:00 PM ET

Jennifer Garner Neutrogena Summit Kids Sunscreen
Larry Busacca/Getty

Making sure to daily apply sunscreen on your children isn’t easy for any mom — but it sure is important, says mother-of-three Jennifer Garner, who has been working with Neutrogena’s Choose Skin Health initiative for six years.

“Of course it’s a struggle!” the actress, 40, tells PEOPLE  Wednesday at the Neutrogena Sun Summit. “The kids do not like getting sunscreen put on, especially at at a certain age, at least not mine. If you have kids out there who like sunscreen, hallelujah!”

Garner, who admits she luckily missed out on the “major baking-in-the-sun years” by mostly staying inside when she was younger, wants to ensure that her children with husband Ben AffleckViolet, 7, Seraphina, 4, and Samuel, 1 — also avoid future skin damage by educating them about the dangers.

“We talk about skin health, and they know why they have to wear sunscreen,” she says. “If someone forgets, they’ll say ‘Hey, did you forget to put sunscreen on me?'”

She also praises Neutrogena’s kid-friendly SPF application options for making things a little easier at home: “I give them a stick that they can rub on their faces. Or they can do a spray if they want it fast. I’ve used everything.”

And Garner admits she’s not above rewarding her kids for remembering their sunscreen.

“I know it’s horrible — and I’m admitting to bribery — but I’ve given them an M&M [for putting] sunscreen on before,” Garner reveals. “I’ve [also] done a sticker chart. I’ll do whatever it takes — it has to be a non-negotiable part of life.”

— Catherine Kast

TELL US: What are your tips for getting your kids to wear sunscreen?

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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Showing 59 comments

blessedwithboys on

Sunscreen is full of chemicals and sunblock feels like you’ve got a plastic bag stuck up against your face. Plus there’s a link between topicals and cancer. Much better to wear long sleeves and a hat!

Rana on

Are you serious blessedwithboys? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve read. You must be buying the wrong sunscreen if it feels like a plastic bag. I would prefer to have my kids covered rather than have them tell me in 20 years they have a melanoma.

Organic mama on

You are exactly right blessedwithboys! And if people would actually do the research on what they are putting on their bodies and their children, they would learn that it’s actually WORSE to put on sunscreen than to go without it! It’s nothing but chemicals that are carcinogens!!!! there are ways to make your own natural sunblock but as long as you get out in the sun in moderation you have nothing to worry about. Plus, the sun is the only natural way to get direct vitamin D.

Tara on

You are wrong too organic mama. There are some sunscreens that are dangerous but I am sure Jennifer uses one that is safe for her kids… Get over yourselves!

Miche on

Yeah, long sleeves isn’t going to fly in South Lousiana. They’d get heat stroke! I’ve gotten it several times from being overdressed. We use sunblock and hats.

Mikaylah on

There are all natural sunscreens out there, as well as DIY sunscreens you can make at home. I usually wear 30+ SPF, because without it I burn fast.

Anonymous on

Yeah, long sleeves don’t fly with this hot blooded gal either! I’ll stick with my spray sunscreen (which I even use for my face, by spraying it onto my hands first and then rubbing it on), thank you very much! 🙂

Anonymous on

50+ SPF is what works for me and I’m in Sweden. I’m lucky vampires are so trendy right now because suddenly it’s OK to be this pale. 😉

lunaticlarry on

baaaahahaha good one!

Stacey on

This is seriously overdoing it. Her kids are probably going to go to school acting like ” the sunscreen police”. And ONE M&M for a reward, WOW.

Jenny on

As if she’s going to admit to half a bag, Stacey.

Em13 on

Duh, product placement.

But yes, skin care in the sun is important.

MommytoanE on

Stacey…have you stepped into an elementary school lately? There’s the food police, that get on everyone’s case for whats in their lunches. The antibacterial police, who carry antibacterial around and make everyone use it. The tissue police, the pick up your trash police, you name it…there’s a kid out there that’s a police.

My daughter loves to have a handful of dry cereal in her lunches (things like chex, cheerio’s…the nonstweetened stuff) instead of chips or fruit snacks and there’s a kid that tells her every single day that cereal is for breakfast only. lol. Every kid thinks they are a police on something…so a sunscreen police will fit in perfectly.

I think its great Jennifer pushes sunscreen. I still fight my daughter (who’s 10) to put it on. But where we live…its considered the normal to be pasty white. We prefer to call it “Minnesota White” but everyone has their own phrase for it. 😛

pattym1314 on

Unfortunetly, constant sunscreen use has now caused an unseen epidemic of low vitamin d. It is natural, and healthy, to have daily amounts of sun exposur. Having low amounts of vitamin d is much more serious than saving yourself a few wr

emily on

No, it is not patty! Where do your get your “facts” from?

Stephanie on

Uh emily actually what the poster said is true! Go to school…I did and you’ll learn it in any A&P course!

CB on

Emily, it absolutely is a well known fact that a daily amount of sunlight exposure is extremely beneficial. You can google that “fact”.

Claire on

Okay I normally like Jennifer Garner and all but really? “It has to be a non-negotiable part of life.” Isn’t bribing them with candy negotiating?

Bev on

Stacey…how about you just do what works for you and your kids (if you even have) others will do what works for them! It’s obviously something Jen’s passionate about. Furthermore, I say GOOD FOR HER and her kids if ONE M&M works for “bribery.” Sure beats them needing to eat the whole bag.

AND big deal IF her kids are “the sunblock police” at school. I can think of a hundred worse things that kids could be telling other kids at school than to wear their sunblock.

On another note, this article is a good reminder for me. I’m not so great about putting on sunscreen…in Canada where we live we are cheering when a hot summer day comes along:)

Melba on

Ok I love the Garner-Afflecks as much as the next guy but this is nothing but a glorified commercial. Really People? And considering how natural the family appears to be I doubt they use chemical-laden Neutrogena on her kids. There are much better less-toxic brands out there. Geez, this is a disappointing and desperate attempt to push a brand. Wow.

PG on

Some of these posts are so retarded. Who the heck cares. It is sunscreen and her kids and her M&Ms. OMG!

msfaye2u on

now that her husband has won all those awards from argo is she gonna be in our faces every second of everyday with constant brain fart emissions. you know who really cares. when they get to be 15 or 16 they aren’t going to listen a word she says. why do these hollywood people think they are the authority on life, marriage, children and politics if they had not got lucky (or knew someone) they would be drive through cashiers at mcdonalds.

Jadey on

Lol so everyone who isn’t famous works at McDonalds? hmmm….okay!

Kim on

I don’t care what she has to do to get the kids to use sunscreen..DO IT.

Last July I had skin cancer surgery and ended up with 18 stitches in my face. Did I wear sunscreen as a kid? Nope..and the doctor told me the damage that caused my cancer was most likely done when I was a kid. Anybody that doesn’t wear sunscreen is nuts.

DaisyMoon on

One whole M&M?

Surely she meant M&M’s…LOL!

ashley on

im all for keeping our kids healthy and teaching them good habits but i dont agree with putting sunscreen on them every single day. its not about the struggle either. its more about the chemicals your putting on their skin. chemicals that could cause cancer with long term use.

your body also needs the sun to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. when they are going to be out in the sun for hours at a time, yes put sunscreen on and reapply often. just not on a daily basis.

D on

Kudos to her for insisting her children wear sunscreen. My husband died at age 41 of metastatic melanoma. Two years later my son’s best friend died of the same thing at the age of 22.

Melanoma is a killer. It does not discriminate, it will kill you regardless of age, etc. And it is not a pretty death.

brittany on

Lmao you people crack me up. Everyone gets so pissy about some of these articles its ridiculous. Why does it bother you if she bribes her kids with one M&M to use sunscreen. It’s one M&M, and with kids you have to do what works. And really? You people are giving a Shit that her kids are telling other kids at school about sunscreen use. Lol we have thousands of bullys picking on kids at school everyday and you are worried her kids being the sunscreen police. At least this article isnt about celebrities partying or something stupid. As a mother this was a good article. I swear people have to nitpick some celebrities. Sometimes I admit I wonder why they devote an article to stupid useless stuff, but not everyone wants to read about the same thing every article. It’s refreshing

Suz on

Very well said brittany. Plus by the looks of these comments, we don’t. Need to worry about the kids brig the sunscreen police. They’re out in full force on this thread. Good grief. Yay you for doing all natural crap. Everybody is just so darn nitpicky!! Get a grip and a life.

Booka on

I agree with her but Neutrogena does not have a high safety rating. There are other more natural brands out there that are safer on the skin.

Cammy on

I like to buy the most natural ones – Badger is a great brand. It’s non Nano, contains Zinc Oxide and no oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, avobenzone, or added Vitamin A.
Water Resistant for 80 minutes; biodegradable.
Certified Organic base of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Beeswax, Jojoba & Cocoa Butter. When it’s a stick, kids love putting it on themselves!

Diana on

If any of you saw the effects of melanoma you would change your tune quick. I wear sunscreen every day and reapply every 2 hours when I’m out for extended time. You get enough vitamins with the sun radiating on your scalp and you can also take supplements. The sun is evil for our skin and any color you get is damage that cant be undone. Melanoma is a cancer that can easily be prevented by wearing sunblock. Good for Jen for keeping her kids safe.

Schae on

FYI–sunscreen isn’t exactly foolproof for “preventing” skin cancer. My best friend from college was very religious about applying sunscreen and had NO family history of cancer. Well, she was diagnosed with skin cancer. Also, there are people (such as myself) who cannot wear sunscreen as a result of skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis. Sunscreen badly irritates it and it doesn’t matter if it’s so-called “natural” or not. And for those who DO apply sunscreen and swear by it, there was a recent study that came out of the University of Missouri found that “”Zinc oxide may generate free radicals when exposed to UV (ultraviolet) sunlight…and those free radicals can kill cells.” (Sunscreen Ingredient May Increase Skin Cancer Risk,, May 7,2012)

danielle stockdale on

Someone needs to tell Jennifer that sunscreen is BAD, BAD for you, full of cancer causing chemicals that block the precious vitamin D that your body so much needs! just keep the children out of the sun between 12:00 and 15:00 when the sun is too strong and let them absorb the precious vitamins at other times, with just moisturizers…they’ll be fine and healthier!

TL in Phoenix on

We are a family of redheads who only burn. My daughter found the solution by making her son resonsible for his own sunscreen. Of course he was older than the Affleck kids. If he got burned because he did not put on sunscreen, he was grounded. You don’t need M&Ms. You need to teach responsibility, accountability and consequences.

Caroliegh on

What’s the deal with children and sunscreen? I’m either good or lucky. I have a 5 year old and I am a teacher’s assistant in a class with twenty-one 2 year olds. I’ve never had a bit of problem. No candy, playing outside was plenty incentive enough.

Anonymous on

danielle stockdale- Like others have said, there are natural and even DIY sunscreens out there that don’t have those chemicals in them. It’s easy to spot the ones without the harmful, chemicals, too. Generally it says right on the bottle that there’s no (insert chemical name here) in the product! 🙂

msfaye2u- If you dislike celebrities that much, then you might be on the wrong site. Just a thought. 😉

emily- Actually, patty is correct. A lot of people ARE getting an insufficent amount of vitamin D due to heavy sunscreen use. That being said, there are other ways to get vitamin D besides the sun. One of them is called a multivitamin. 🙂

Anonymous on

bribe them to bring their own cups to Starbucks (or not go to Starbucks) and to bring their own bags when they shop. Oh, and no disposable diapers. AND NO HAIR DYE!!!!

as for sunscreen, the spray can be tolerated. remember, their exposure is WAY more than their parents’ was…..the ozone layer is much changed.

onur on

At least I cangragulate her for showin so much interest in her kids comparing to some other celebrities…

Jessie on

Seriously ONE M&M!!! Who can eat just one!?

Kristen on

If it were really non-negotiable, you wouldn’t have to bribe them to do it. You’d just say, this is how it is. Put it on.

Also, sunscreen is filled with all kinds of nasty chemicals that I wouldn’t want on my kids everyday. Load up on the lycopene, put on a long-sleeved shirt, and wear a hat.

Michelle on

Kristen – She lives in Southern California where it’s hot most days… Long sleeves aren’t going to work. Everything anyone uses is full of chemicals, you can’t live your life in fear of them.

My neighbor died of skin cancer and was told the reason he got it in the first place was because of overexposure to the sun as a child. He was never cautious about wearing sunscreen. And if you have a problem with the way she does things its very simple to ignore her and not do it.

Vicki on

Better than the Kardashian girls who get a new Coach purse every time *they* use some sunscreen. (Go, Jen!)

Michelle on

Vicki, no Kardashian would be be caught wearing a coach purse… Coach is tacky. Celine, Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, for sure but coach… No.

Either way, this article has nothing to do with them so it was irrelevant and ignorant of you to bring them up. The way any family bribes their children is no one’s business but they’re own.

Stephanie on

My daughter’s skin is so fair that she needs to wear SPF 50 or up, or else she’ll burn. When she was eight, I forgot the SPF 50 and only had SPF 15, which I’d brought for my husband. I put it on her, and she came back with second degree burns which needed to be wrapped in gauze and took several months to heal, and left scars even though she never touched them.

The moral of the story is that sunscreen is absolutely necessary for some kids. Since Jennifer’s kids are also blonde and have pretty fair skin, I’m assuming they fall into this category. (My son, on the other hand, has dark hair and medium toned skin and rarely burns even when he’s not wearing sunscreen.)

Diane on

Even though it’s a bit of a commercial, so is a lot of what is posted here. She’s very smart for putting sunscreen on her kids, too many parents don’t. I wear sun protective clothing – long sleeves, long pants – anytime I’m out in the sun. The clothes are extremely lightweight, and are much cooler than having a burn. Plus they are less expensive than having to buy constant sunscreen for my arms and legs.

Cesa on

Good for you Jennifer Garner. My parents said they never planned to bribe us kids, too. You know what, it worked and it was a win-win.
How great her bribe is for applying sunscreen because using it daily might save a person from cancer.

But an M&M? Great mom!

Chelsey on

So she bribes her kids with and M&M to put sunscreen on. It’s really not an issue. I’m glad she makes her kids wear sunscreen.

Anonymous on

Love this lady, she does it all great mom, great actress and her husband thinks she is great. She has an awesome life… She is one of the most Classy women in Hollywood a lot of women could take lessons from her .

rubblebubblecake on

How many pictures and stories do we have to see/hear about Jennifer Garner and her kids? We get it; she’s a good mom. But no better than most moms out there. The only difference is she gets to do all those things with her kids all day long. Most of us have to work a full week and yet still make time to do what wonderful Jennifer does. Give me a break!

c on

And why does society think we need to bribe out kids to get theem to listen? Called telling your children NO!!!!!!!! and you must or else……….etc etc

guest on

Traditionally long sleeves, cottony fabrics, whites / light colors is what is worn when working outdoors in the south in the heat. The arabs in the desert wore long cottony coverings that were light too. Farmers wear longsleeves not tank tops. Etc…

Reanna on

Yes , Skin health is very important….but its an isnside job.
Rewarding with sugar sends a terrible message.
Sugar is habit forming AND linked to multiple diseases!
Give them an apple and make healthy food the reward!!

Dee on

Err, bribery is a form of negotiation.

Sarah on

The only bribing my mom did was with spankings!

me on

With that being said. How about the makers of sunblock, reducing the price for individuals. Also making a point so that they individuals know that sunblock have expiry dates.

Caral on

How are people complaining that this article is one big commercial when it says right there in the second paragraph that she gave these quotes while participating at the Neutrogena Sun Summit. She was obviously there for a purpose. Duh.

Gia on

I don’t see why she was such a difficult time with kids putting on sunscreen. I feel this situation is a little over exaggerated . IDK maybe this is a common problem. But I have been putting sunscreen on my kids since they were very little, maybe its normal for them. When they were little they never fought over having to put it on. And now that they are older they do it themselves.

Anonymous on

Kristen- In addition to what others have already said, not everyone can wear a hat. I, for example, have a very large head and as a result it’s extremely rare for me to be able to find a hat that fits! Most are too small for me!