Can You Apply Sunscreen On A Baby?

You’re applying sunscreen in the morning as you usual do when suddenly a thought pops into your head: should you slather some on your baby as well or will it harm him/her? While it can seem premature to use sunscreen on a baby, infants too can unfortunately develop skin cancer. Moreover, the effects of unprotected sun exposure during childhood will show up on their skin later in life, with the premature formation of wrinkles.

On the other hand, infants’ skin is thinner and not fully-developed yet, which means that the active ingredients in sunscreens penetrate it more easily. In addition, compared to adults, babies have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio (in other words, proportionately infants have more skin for the size body as compared to an adult). Because of these factors, an ingredient that is perfectly safe for adults can instead more easily cause allergic reactions, irritations and inflammations in babies.

So, what to do?

Babies under 6 months old don’t need sunscreen

According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, and to avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense.” Infants should be kept in the shade. If that’s not possible, then Sachs says to make them wear lightweight protective clothes (avoid fabrics that keep bodies too warm as infants can’t cool theirs down with sweat as adults do yet and so when they’re too hot, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated), a wide-brimmed hat, glasses and then to apply a small amount of sunscreen to small areas that remain exposed such as the cheeks and hands (only their back).

Use only physical sunscreens

When it comes to sunscreen ingredients, natural is best, especially for young children. Chemical ingredients such as Avobenzone and Oxybenzone are more likely to cause an adverse reaction and can also be absorbed by the body, which then disposes of them through urine. Just because they can penetrate the body, it doesn’t mean that they are toxic and harmful. Studies have shown they aren’t, but so far none have been conducted on babies, which is why it’s best to avoid them, just in case. Instead, opt for non micronized Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide, which stay on the surface of the skin, creating a protective barrier that simply reflects sun rays off it.

My favourite is Zinc oxide as it can, on its own, protect against the entire UV spectrum. A good option would be Blue Lizard Australian Sun Cream SPF 30+ ($19.35) which is suitable for most skin types and doesn’t leave a greasy residue behind. If you want something paraben-free instead, you could try Vaincream Sunscreen SPF 60 ($12.89), which sinks into the skin nicely and is suitable even for very sensitive skin. Other good options are Loving Naturals Clear Body Sunscreen SPF 30 Non Nano Zinc Oxide UVA/UV ($12.99) and Badger Chamomile and Calendula Broad Spectrum SPF 34 Baby Sunscreen ($13.60).

Bottom Line

Infants under 6 months old should just be kept in the shade. Instead, you should start applying sunscreen on older babies. But make sure you use a physical sunscreen (ie one with only Titanium Dioxide and/or Zinc Oxide, not micronized). Although chemical sunscreen ingredients are perfectly safe for adults they could cause allergic reactions and irritations on infants, who have much thinner skin.

Do you apply sunscreen on your baby?

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Comments

  1. says

    Great information for new moms out there. My daughter was born in June & so her first summer was spent in the shade. The following year, when she turned one, light clothes, hats at all time and a sunscreen on exposed parts I still made her play in the shade as much as possible & avoided the high sun periods of the day as much as possible.

    What I’ve observed over the years is that many moms will stop or be less dilligent about sunscreen once children become active, around 7 or so. That’s when it’s super important to impose it. That way kids get into the habit of using it. My daughter will be 14 this year and outdoor activities are not considered by her if she’s not wearing sunscreen. :)
    Icaria´s last blog post ..Winter Dryness Help / Body SkinMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Icaria, what a smart mom you are! Well-done for keeping your daughter protected from the sun rays and teaching her to always use sunscreen. I wish more parents did that. Here, most moms apply sunscreen on their children only at the beach, but it’s important to wear it whenever we go out in the sun.

  2. says

    I’m surprised what they say about kids under six months, but I guess it makes sense. And honestly, I think even adult sunscreens should mostly be physical and not chemical. Some chemical sunscreens irritate my skin. It’s something I’ve deduced only recently, but I think it might be octisalate. I think that’s how it’s spelled. So, I avoid it.

    But the thing is, you can’t tell by looking at me that my skin is irritated. I can feel it, not see it. So, you would never know if your kid is hurting unless they can say it. And a baby definitely can’t say it.
    Trisha´s last blog post ..Cover FX Pressed Mineral Foundation is My New Best FriendMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Trisha, I agree. I prefer physical sunscreens too. Chemical ones work well, but they are much more likely to cause irritations and since we have a better alternative, why not use that?

  3. Viv says

    I always did use sunscreen on my babies (and continue now that they are children). I must admit I probably did use zinc oxide based ones before six months – your article is interesting :) They have inherited my very pale/freckled/ginger colouring, and believe me, we really HAVE to apply the SPF. It’s probably lucky in a way, as we’re never tempted to over-do the sun, as we will suffer – both seen AND unseen damage. I still remember the pain/blisters when, as a young teenager fed up with being pale, I was persuaded by a friend to try her Ambre Solaire tanning oil – no SPF, just oil. NEVER AGAIN.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Viv, tanning oil is so bad! I’m sorry you had to find out the hard way. But it’s great that you and your family always use sunscreen. It does prevent a lot of damage. And if you have to apply sunscreen on infants, then you want it to be a physical one. The main problem is that their skin isn’t fully-developed yet, but zinc oxide is gentle and shouldn’t cause problems. It’s still better to keep them out of the shade whenever possible though.

  4. Janessa says

    To parents who protect their kid’s skin, bless you; you are doing one of the greatest favors for your child. My parents never applied sunscreen to me unless we were going to the beach or swimming and even then, we wouldn’t reapply. To this day, even after I lectured them on all the dangers of sun exposure, they don’t listen. Ah, well. :o
    And so I am feeling so grateful I found your blog. You made me fully aware of how important sunscreen is and what true beauty really is. I’ve also found lots of other websites I regularly read thanks to you.

    <3

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, it’s great that more and more parents understand the important of sunscreen and apply it on their children too, isn’t it? Unfortunately, my parents are the same as yours. Even now, they don’t get it. Ah well, it’s their skin. *sighs*

      Aww you’re very welcome. That’s exactly the reason why I started blogging and keep at it. Bless you. :)

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