If you’re looking to keep baby safe this summer, protecting them against the sun’s harsh rays is one of the most important things you’ll need to focus on. Baby’s skin is ultra-sensitive and therefore a lot more prone to serious burns. Studies have shown that children who suffer serious burns are at an increased risk of developing melanoma, or skin cancer, later on in life.
But is protecting baby’s skin as simple as just applying sunscreen? Can babies even wear sunscreen? Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know.
At What Age Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?
Ideally, babies shouldn’t wear sunscreen until they are at least six months of age. However, while previous guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated babies should never wear sunscreen until six months, they have been recently updated. Now, the new guidelines state a baby-safe sunscreen of at least 15 SPF can be applied on small areas of the body, such as the back of their hands and face.
That being said, it is still advised to avoid using it and instead keep baby in the shade, especially during peak times of the day.
Once they reach six months of age, sunscreen can start to be applied to any exposed part of the body. However, before doing so it’s also recommended you do a patch test. Apply the sunscreen to a very small patch of skin 48 hours before you plan on heading out in the sun. This enables you to see whether any adverse reaction occurs and that the sunscreen is likely safe to use all over the body.
Why Is The Use Of Sunscreen Advised Against In Young Infants?
The reason experts do advise against using sunscreen on infants is because of the chemicals it contains. Even baby-safe sunscreen can still contain chemicals which could prove harmful to baby if too much is applied.
So, why don’t these chemicals affect adults and slightly older children too? It’s actually down to a few different factors.
One of these is the stratum corneum; a layer of skin which protects the body against outside elements. In young babies, this layer of skin is a lot thinner. They also don’t have an acid mantle (a protective film on the surface of the skin) which means they aren’t fully protected against bacteria and they don’t yet have an adequate sweating function. Finally, the ratio of surface skin to body weight is much higher. This means that any chemicals applied to the skin will have much more of an effect on the body if they soak in.
Put simply – it’s easier for chemicals to pass through the skin and into baby’s bloodstream. There’s also an additional risk that baby could swallow the sunscreen accidentally if they place their fingers in their mouth.
How To Choose The Best Sunscreen
When it comes to choosing a sunscreen for your little one, ideally, you’ll want to consult a doctor or pediatrician. That way, they can tell you exactly whether or not the brand you’re thinking of using is right for your baby.
However, there are a few general pointers you can follow to help narrow down your search. As chemicals absorbed into the skin are a potential concern, there are a couple of ingredients you can look out for. Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are considered safer for baby’s due to the fact they are derived naturally from minerals. They also don’t absorb into the skin like other chemicals can.
You can start out by searching for sunscreen on Amazon that claims to be baby safe, and narrow down your choices from there.
Although these tips are useful to follow, they should only be used as a rough guideline and seeking advice from a doctor is still recommended.
Baby Sunscreen Application
While sunscreens containing titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are designed to start working instantly, it’s still advised to wait 15 minutes after application before you expose your little one to the sun.
If baby is younger than six months, following the advice earlier and applying very small amounts to only certain parts of the body is advised. However, if baby is older than six months, you’ll want to make sure you apply a healthy amount to all exposed areas. Pay attention to parts of the body which are more at risk of burning such as the nose, ears and lips.
It’s also important to remember to keep reapplying every couple of hours or so. If baby gets wet or you’re out in the sun for long period of time, you’ll want to apply the sunscreen more frequently.
Overall, when it comes to keeping baby safe in the sun, a good quality sunscreen can help. However, it’s more important to keep baby covered up and in the shade between the peak hours of 10am until 4pm. Always seek advice from a doctor before using any new product on your baby’s skin.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or licensed medical professional before making any medical decisions.