Health & Safety

Should Babies Wear Sunscreen?

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You baby’s skin is up to 30% more delicate than your own, so it’s vital to keep it protected from the sun’s powerful and harmful UV rays.

But why do people say not all babies should wear sunscreen?

If your baby is under 6 months it’s best to completely avoid sun exposure, negating the need to apply sunscreen unless absolutely necessary.

But what about older children – what type of sunscreen should you use? How often should you apply it?

And do darker babies need to wear sunscreen too?

Let’s take a look.

Should Babies Wear Sunscreen?

The decision as to whether to apply sunscreen to your baby comes down to their age.

Babies under 6 months should not wear sunscreen, but once your baby reaches the 6 month mark it’s safe to apply sunscreen to their skin.

When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?

Newborn to 6 Months

Newborns and babies under the age of 6 months should generally not wear sunscreen.

The reason for this is simple – according to the FDA, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and Skin Cancer Foundation, babies under the age of 6 months should never be in direct sunlight.

However, the AAP state that if sun exposure is absolutely unavoidable – for example when there is no shade or protective clothing available – then a small amount of sunscreen should be applied to your baby’s face.

Why Can’t Babies Wear Sunscreen?

There are 2 reasons why the AAP recommends keeping babies under 6 months out of the sun, and therefore why you should not apply sunscreen.

  1. Babies under 6 months have extremely delicate skin, which absorbs chemicals more easily than the skin of older children. The chemicals found in sunscreen may therefore cause a rash or skin irritation for newborns and infants under 6 months.
  2. Because babies, and newborns in particular, can overheat very quickly in hot weather and direct sunlight, it’s best to completely avoid direct sun exposure.

6 Months Or Older

When your baby is over 6 months you can start exposing them to direct sunlight.

Given how sensitive a baby’s skin is, it’s vitally important that babies, toddlers and older children wear sunscreen all over their body to protect against harmful UV rays.

It’s important to note that UV rays can still be present and harmful even on cloudy days.

So just because it’s not sunny doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply sunscreen to your baby (more on this later).

Can Babies Use Regular Sunscreen?

Given babies have much more sensitive skin than adults, you may be wondering if you can use the same sunscreen you use on your little one’s skin.

Expert opinion varies, but may people say there is no reason why you cannot use regular sunscreen on your baby.

So there’s no need to buy baby or kids’ sunscreen, which can be much more expensive, if you don’t want to.

The key thing you must do however is use sunscreen with a very high sun protection factor (SPF).

While the minimum recommended SPF to use on children is 30, many parents and pediatricians recommend using SPF 50, especially on days where the UV index is high.

You should also try and use sunscreen that is “broad-spectrum”, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

How Often Should I Apply Sunscreen To My Baby?

It is generally recommended to apply sunscreen every 2 hours, and every time your child sweats or gets wet, for example when swimming in a pool or in the ocean.

Should I Put Sunscreen On My Child Every Day?

Even on cloudy days you baby is at risk from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

So in summer when the UV index is high, or on winter days where the sun reflects off the snow on the ground, it’s vitally important that you apply sunscreen to your child every single day.

Do Black or Dark Skinned Babies Need To Wear Sunscreen?

Just because a baby has dark skin doesn’t mean they won’t be affected by the sun’s harmful UV rays.

While a study by the Skin Cancer Foundation found that African Americans have a lower risk of getting skin cancer than Caucasians, they do still get cancer, and it’s often detected at a later stage meaning it can be more deadly.

So to avoid increasing the chances of your baby getting skin cancer at a later age, babies of all races and skin color should wear sunscreen.

Other Ways To Protect Your Baby From The Sun

  • Keep your baby out of the sun, or even indoors, between 10am to 4pm, which is when the sun is likely to be at its strongest and UV rays most intense.
  • Seek out shade wherever possible, and if you’re in an area with no natural shade like the beach, take your own umbrella or tent.
  • Dress your baby in a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses with a minimum of 95% (ideally 99%) UV protection.
  • Cover up your baby’s skin from the sun using long-sleeved clothing and baby rash guards, as well as appropriate footwear.
  • Keep your little one hydrated by encouraging them to drink plenty of water, milk or other fluids.