When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen And How To Choose The Right One?

Sun protection choices for infants under six months and the ones older are not the same.

Written by Dr. Ritika Shah • 
 

It is common for adults to use sunscreen; however, when stepping out in the sun, many new parents may consider this question: when can babies wear sunscreen safely?

Sunscreen lotions or sunblock protect the skin from exposure to UV rays. As a result, it helps reduce the risk of sunburns, sun rashes, and skin cancer. However, while sunscreen is necessary for babies, their skin also requires exposure to air. Furthermore, babies have delicate and highly sensitive skin. Therefore, they must be protected from the sun as per the pediatrician’s recommendation.

Read this post for some tips on choosing the right sunscreen for your baby.

Is Sunscreen Safe For Babies?

Infants have sensitive skin prone to sunburns. However, applying sunscreen on babies younger than six months can be harmful since they are prone to side effects such as rashes. Instead, you can use a stroller canopy outdoors to keep them away from direct sunlight (1).

When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?

Babies above six months of age can wear sunscreen after consulting a pediatrician. Ideally, they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. However, if your baby is exposed to sunlight often, consult a doctor and choose a mild sunscreen. For infants younger than six months, avoid the sun and apply a minimal amount of sunscreen only after checking with your pediatrician (1).

How Much Sunscreen Should A Baby Wear?

Apply a thin layer of sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher on your baby to help prevent skin irritation. However, first, do a patch test on your baby’s wrist to check for signs of irritation (2). Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapply it every two hours for maximum protection. If your baby is near a water body or swimming outdoors, ensure that the sunscreen is waterproof (3) (4).

How Do You Choose The Right Sunscreen For Babies?

The following tips can help you pick the right sunscreen for your baby (4):

  • Choose a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF.
  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect from UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use water-resistant sunscreen, especially if the child swims in an open environment.
  • Avoid sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and PABA as they may cause allergies.
  • Choose mineral-based sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc dioxide for sensitive skin.

What Are Other Ways To Protect Babies From The Sun?

The following steps could help protect babies from the sun (1) (3):

  • Keep away from excessive sunlight. Avoid direct exposure to sunlight, especially during the peak hours of the day. Use an umbrella or the stroller’s hood for shade.
  • Dress the baby appropriately. Dress them in long-sleeved clothing that is lightweight but not sheer enough to see through. A wide hat and sunglasses can offer extra protection.
  • Keep the baby hydrated: Ensure the baby drinks enough water or other fluids containing electrolytes and juicy fruits on sunny and dry days.
  • Look for signs of irritation: If your baby begins to turn red, gets fussy, or starts crying, take them indoors as the sun may be irritating them. Also, look out for sunburn and ways to heal it.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What’s the difference between baby sunscreen and regular sunscreen?

There is no particular difference between baby sunscreen and regular or adult sunscreen since these generally contain the same active ingredients. But according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), all children should use sunscreen with titanium or zinc oxide since these are believed to provide better sun protection, an SPF of at least 30 or more, and broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB sun rays (5) (6).

2. Should I put sunscreen on my baby every day?

If you are under the sun with your baby, you must reapply sunscreen every two hours or whenever they sweat. However, since babies’ skin are most sensitive to rashes or other side effects from the sunscreen, it may be better to opt for other protections such as a natural shade under a tree or a stroller canopy to avoid frequent application of sunscreen (7) (8).

Protection from the sun is important at all stages of life, but babies need it more due to their delicate skin. When sun exposure is unavoidable, you can apply a thin layer of sunscreen to toddlers above six months. Contact your pediatrician if your baby experiences any skin issues due to sun exposure.

Key Pointers

  • Mild sunscreens may be safely used on babies older than six months after consulting a pediatrician.
  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Avoid exposure to excess sunlight and dress them appropriately when venturing outdoors in the daytime.

References

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