Babies have sensitive skin that is much thinner than adults. If your baby is under six months of age they should be kept out of direct sunlight. Find a shaded area to keep your baby while you are out in the sun. Keep your babies covered with tightly knit clothes and make sure they have a hat on. When you do go outdoors, be particularly careful in the early months about taking all the following precautions. If your child gets sunburned and has blisters, severe pains, or fever, call your pediatrician right away. Sunburn can cause dehydration as well. Sunburn during childhood raises the risk of melanoma (the most deadly type of skin cancer) as well as wrinkles later in life.
Avoid being in the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. This is when UV rays are the strongest. Even on overcast or cloudy days sunburn can result. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen on your children with an SPF of at least 15. Sunscreen is only that, a screen. Higher SPFs can block the vast majority of the sun’s rays, but no sunscreen blocks 100%. Sunscreen should be a part of a total sun protection program, including hats, protective clothing and avoidance of the mid-day sun when the UV rays are the strongest (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Use a waterproof sunscreen if your child will be in the water or sweating a lot. Waterproof sunscreens stay on longer when you sweat or get wet. Apply sunscreen thirty minutes before you go out in the sun. Don’t wait till you are already in the sun to apply sunscreen. Even fifteen minutes in the sun can result in sunburn. You will not always see the sunburn until hours after the damage occurs. Reapply sunscreen at least every hour and a half. Apply sunscreen generously and reapply frequently. If your child is in the water, you may need to reapply more often. Don’t forget about your child’s nose, ears, and tops of their feet. The skin in these areas is thin and is often forgotten when applying sunscreen. Also, keep in mind that lips can burn, too. To protect the lips, coat them with lip balm that has SPF 15. *If your child goes into the water, reapply sunscreen as soon as you towel them off – even if it’s been less than two hours since you applied it.
The sun is strongest between 10 and 4 o’clock, so when you can, time your stroll or outside play with your baby earlier than 10 or later than 4. When you do venture out, keep in mind that the sun’s rays bounce off surfaces like water, snow, cement, and sand. Your baby (keep in mind a baby’s thinner, more delicate skin is especially vulnerable) can also get burned at other times of day and on cloudy or cool days because it’s not the heat of the sun that burns the skin but the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays can damage the skin at all times of day, all year round, even in the middle of winter. You can’t feel these when they hit your skin, but you’ll see the effects later. (It can take several hours for the redness and pain of a mild first-degree burn to appear.) . Even if your child is dark skinned they still need sunscreen; some parents make the mistake of thinking that only fair skinned children need sunscreen. All children should wear sunscreen if they are going to be out in the sun. Protecting your little one
Keep your baby in protected spots; try to keep your baby in the shade – under a tree or umbrella, and/or the sunshade on your baby’s stroller. You may be surprised to learn that shade provides only partial protection against UV rays. Without sunscreen or other protection, even a baby in the shade can get sunburned. If you’re longing to spend your day at a beach or park, an outdoor sun tent with built-in UV protection can keep your baby cool and protected. Cover your baby’s arms and legs in lightweight, light-colored clothing. Light colors reflect the heat and keep skin cooler than dark colors, which absorb heat. Fabrics with a tight weave protect skin better than loosely woven fabrics. (Hold the fabric up to the light. The less light you see shining through, the tighter the weave.)You can find clothing such as swimsuits and T-shirts made from fabric with sun protection built into it. These products can be a little pricey, but they might be a good investment if you often find yourself outdoors with your baby. Whether your baby is bald or has a full head of hair, a hat is a must. Choose a hat with flaps in the back for neck protection and a brim that’s wide enough to shade the face. A brim that protects the ears is better than one that protects only in front. If your baby will wear them, try a pair of UV-protective sunglasses.
Both chemical and physical sunscreens (those containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) can deteriorate over time, so check the bottle or tube for the expiration date. If you can’t find a date, or if the product seems to have dried up or changed color or consistency, it’s better to be safe and buy some new sunscreen. When you consider the pain and skin damage your child will suffer from getting sunburn, it’s not worth using last year’s bottle just to save a few dollars.
What do I do if my baby puts their hands in their mouth or eyes while wearing sunscreen?
Babies put their hands in their mouth about 64 times an hour. Toddlers put their hands in their mouth about 32 times an hour. That’s a good reason to use a “physical” sunscreen instead of a regular chemical sunscreen. Physical sunscreens contain only zinc oxide or titanium oxide rather than the assorted chemicals you’ll find in regular chemical sunscreens. Instead of being absorbed by the skin, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide sit on the skin and physically block the sun. Look for one or the other on the sunscreen’s label. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are not toxic and do not burn the eyes. The ingredients are “inert,” meaning they won’t react with any chemicals in the body to cause illness or an allergic reaction. So you don’t have to worry about your child ingesting small amounts. Getting sunburn is a lot more hazardous for your child than swallowing a little zinc oxide.
What should I look for when buying a sunscreen for my child?
Look for sunscreens that are greater than or equal to SPF (sun protection factor) 30 and products that are broad spectrum, which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. It’s better to use thick, greasy sunscreens that are water-resistant or very water-resistant (formerly waterproof) for outings to the park, pool, or beach because these products provide better and longer-lasting coverage. Look at the list of active ingredients on the label; products that have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide in the list are broad spectrum sun blocks that do not sting the eyes.
Baby and kid sunscreens often have the same active ingredients as the adult versions, but with cuter labeling and marketing. Check your active ingredients. If they are the same, the sunscreen is the same. Your baby is not more protected with a “baby” SPF 30 sunscreen, than with a “regular” SPF 30 sunscreen if they are both water-resistant and have the same active ingredients. Always apply a small patch test on your child’s skin to see if any redness or irritation occurs before slathering their little bodies with the sunscreen, especially if your child has very sensitive skin.)
Is sun block better than sunscreen?
Sun blocks are products that have titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide. They physically block the sun’s rays and scatter the ultraviolet radiation (UV) upon contact. Sunscreens are chemicals that absorb the UV radiation. Sun blocks tend to block a wider range of the sun’s rays (UVA and UVB) so are better as solo ingredients. Products often combine good UVB chemical sunscreens with a physical blocker like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to provide higher SPF and broad spectrum coverage.
What does the “PA” ranking on a sunscreen label mean?
The traditional SPF ranking on most sunscreens only applies to the UVB, or the sun’s burning rays. The vast majority of the sun’s rays that make it to the Earth’s surface are longer wavelength UVA rays. UVA rays cause immune suppression in the skin, leathering, wrinkling and long-term photo damage of the skin. These wavelengths have also been shown to increase the risk of some skin cancers. Products containing active ingredients that protect against these UVA rays may have a PA (Protection against UVA) rating of PA+, PA++, or PA +++, and the more plus signs, the higher the protection.
UVB protection prevents sunburn. The UVA rays do not burn the skin easily (these are the rays used for tanning beds), but penetrate more deeply into the skin to cause immune suppression in the skin, leathering, wrinkling, photo damage and can cause skin cancer. Not all sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB. Check for the PA rating or the active ingredient list. For the most effective protection, both UVB and UVA should be blocked to prevent short-term and long-term damage to the skin.
How long does it take for sunscreen to wear off?
Water-resistant sunscreens last 40 minutes and very water-resistant or waterproof sunscreens last 80 minutes. Most people apply only half the amount that they are supposed to and not evenly over the skin. This decreases the SPF and allows uncovered areas to burn.