Protecting your baby from the sun is very important because babies have a very thin and extremely sensitive skin that burns easily. Unprotected sun exposure can cause sunburn, blisters, high fever, heatstroke, and dehydration in babies. It can also increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
This is why parents must do everything they can to keep their babies safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Read on to find out more about the use of sunscreen on babies, and other alternative ways for sun protection.
When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?
For babies younger than 6 months, it is best to keep them out of direct sunlight and to use protective clothing. If your baby can’t be completely protected by shade and clothing, you can use a minimal amount of baby-safe sunscreen to small areas of baby’s body, such as the face, hands and feet. For babies 6 months of age and older, it is completely safe and recommendable to use sunscreen to all exposed areas of the body.
You should apply a small amount on a patch of your baby’s skin 48 hours prior to use, just to make sure your baby doesn’t develop a skin irritation.
Also, keep in mind that sunscreen should be used year-round. The sun’s UV rays can reach your baby’s skin even in winter through the clouds, so make sure you apply sunscreen whenever you go outside with your baby.
How Much Sunscreen Should Babies Wear?
Unless your child is under 6 months of age, more is better. You should apply sunscreen generously 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply at least every two hours if you spend more time outdoors. Sunscreen (even the waterproof kind) wears off after swimming or sweating.
Which Sunscreen Is Safest For Your Baby?
Since you are going to use sunscreen on a baby’s sensitive skin, you should choose a formula that is suitable for sensitive skin or specifically for children. Opt for a broad spectrum sunscreen (which protects against both UVA and UVB rays) that is water-resistant and with an SPF of 30-50.
To avoid skin irritation and rashes, you should choose a mineral (physical) formulation that contains titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. Unlike the ingredients in chemical sunscreens which are absorbed by the skin and can cause irritation or allergic reactions, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are hypoallergenic ingredients that sit on top of the skin and form a barrier against the sun's rays. (These are the ones that tend to leave a white residue on the skin and are easily washed off).
You should also avoid sunscreens that contain insect repellents. While sunscreen must be frequently reapplied, insect repellent typically doesn't need to be reapplied. This is why if you need a repellent, you should buy a separate product and apply it after applying the sunscreen (with your pediatrician’s approval only).
Tips For Protecting Your Baby From The Sun
If you are planning on taking your baby outside, here are some basic recommendations that will help you protect him from the sun:
- The best form of sun protection is prevention, so you should avoid going outside during peak hours – from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which is when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Stay in the shade as much as you can and avoid direct sunlight.
- Cover as much skin as possible with loose, light-coloured, sun-protective clothing with a UPF label or at least with a tight weave (one that is not see-through). A wide-brimmed hat is also recommended for keeping shade to the face, eyes, ears and back of the neck. If your baby lets you, also put on some sunglasses that will protect your child's eyes against UVA and UVB rays.
- Be a role-model. Kids learn by imitation and are more likely to wear a sun-protective outfit if they see you wearing one.
- Keep your baby Offer plenty of fluids (breast milk, formula, water or juices) if you are going to spend a lot of time out in the sun.
- Watch for signs of dehydration (fussiness, excessive crying, or redness of the skin). Especially in hot summer weather, your baby can easily become dehydrated. If your baby gets sunburns, move him out of the sun immediately and apply a cold compress to the affected areas. Ask your pediatrician about advice on what you can do to help your baby feel better until it goes away.