Baby Sun Protection: Keeping Their Delicate Skin Safe
Parents often have a long list of questions about baby sun protection, including the safest ingredients, the best products to use and when to start. Read on for information on keeping your little one safe in the sun, baby sunscreen age guidelines, which sun protection benefits to look for and more.
Baby skin is delicate, different than its older counterparts and more vulnerable to the detrimental effects of the sun. A sunburn is painful at any age (and can lead to long-term skin damage), but overexposure to UV rays in babies may result in a trip to the emergency room. That's why using the right baby sun protection products is imperative—although sun avoidance is better. So, here’s everything you need to know about baby sunscreen1, ingredients to look for, answers to common questions like “When can babies wear sunscreen?” and more.
Baby sun protection tips:
- Keep babies out of direct sunlight
- Dress babies in long sleeves, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Make sure babies drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid overheating
- Take your baby indoors if he or she is crying excessively or experiences redness on exposed skin
- If you’re unsure of which sunscreen to use on your baby, talk to a dermatologist or pediatrician
How is Baby Skin Different?
Baby skin may be soft and smooth, but it’s also more sensitive than skin that's just a year or two older1. One reason is because babies have a thinner stratum corneum, which is the outmost layer of dead skin cells that helps protect the body from external irritants.2 (This is why a moisturizer with ceramides that helps maintain the skin’s barrier is important for babies.) Because of this, your newborn's sunburn can cause more than redness and discomfort; it can lead to dehydration, a fever, blisters, infections and heatstroke.1
When Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?
Now that you understand why their skin is so sensitive and delicate, you’re probably wondering, when you can put sunscreen on your baby? Here are some general baby sunscreen3 age guidelines:
Babies younger than six months: Many dermatologists recommend avoiding sun exposure and the use of sunscreen in babies younger than six months old4. So, to help your little one stay safe while outside, it’s best to keep them out of direct sunlight, in the shade and dressed in long-sleeves, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses. A lightweight, breathable, full-body onesie in a bright color is ideal, since white and pastel colors can allow more UV rays to reach the skin5.
Babies older than six months: After six months of age, broad spectrum, water-resistant, physical- or chemical-based UV filters are recognized as safe and effective by the FDA, although it is recommended that you continue keeping them in the shade and covered with clothing.6
What to look for in a baby sunscreen
There are no specific U.S. FDA guidelines for baby sunscreen7, which is why it’s best to have a conversation with your dermatologist or pediatrician about the ideal UV filters or formulation for your child.
As with all sun protection products, your baby's sunscreen should have an SPF of at least 30, provide broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, and be water resistant for up to 40 or 80 minutes if the baby will be in or around water. Some baby sunscreen products are specially-formulated to provide the skin with additional benefits, and ingredients such as ceramides to help restore the skin barrier and soothing niacinamide can be beneficial as well.
Baby sun protection pointers
After your little one is able to use baby sunscreen, there are a few special considerations1 to keep in mind. First, always keep an eye on your baby after you apply sunscreen(or any skincare product) because you want to prevent them from licking it off their hands, fingers or any other skin they can reach with their mouth. And don't forget – even though you should apply baby sunscreen to your baby's entire face (and head), it’s important to be careful around their eyes and never apply sunscreen near their eyelids.1
You may also want to consider applying baby sunscreen per the directions on the label if spending a prolonged amount of time in the car8 during daylight hours. UVA rays are can penetrate glass, which means your baby could be exposed without you realizing. Placing the car seat in the middle of the back seat can reduce their exposure, and applying a UV-blocking film to all of your car's windows can block nearly 100% of the sun’s damaging rays and help protect the entire family.1
- Seidenari, S., Giusti, G., Bertoni, L., Magnoni, C., Pellacani, G. (2000). Thickness and echogenicity of the skin in children as assessed by 20-MHz ultrasound. Dermatology, 201(3), 218-222.
- Hurwitz, S. (2008). The sun and sunscreen protection: recommendations for children. Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, 14(6), 657-660.