Sun protection for babies and toddlers highlights.
- Childhood or adolescence sunburns increase the chances of developing melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer.
- The best sun protection for babies is shade, SPF-protective clothing, and a wide-brimmed hat. We love Flap Happy hats!
- Minimize the use of sunscreen on babies less than six months old. Liberally apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 30 on toddlers and children. Reapply every two hours, or more often if swimming or sweating.
- Be cautious about terms like ‘baby’, ‘sensitive skin’, ‘water-resistant’, and ‘sport’ as these are marketing terms, not scientific designations.
- Choose sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These are best for sun protection for babies and children (and everyone really) because they do not absorb into our bloodstream.
- Any sunscreen is always better than no sunscreen when it comes to sun protection for babies.
Get all the info about sun protection for babies & toddlers.
Here at Littlemore, we love getting outside. Fresh air, sunshine, and movement are good for everyone - especially parents when that outdoor play results in your little one taking a gloriously long nap.
However, anyone who’s ever put sunscreen on a toddler understands the struggle. Today we’re going to outline why that’s a squirmish worth having, and provide some tips to make family sun safety a little easier.
Let’s start with why sun protection for babies and toddlers is so important.
The most important reason to build good family sun habits is that getting sunburnt during childhood or adolescence increases a person’s chance of developing melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Also, sunburns are painful and may cause lasting skin damage.
The sun’s harmful rays react with a group of natural pigments in our skin called melanin. When your sun exposure exceeds your melanin’s ability to protect your skin it will burn. So of course, the severity of the damage caused by sunburns increases with the amount and intensity of your exposure.
It’s important to note that the sun’s rays damage all skin types. It’s true that lighter skin has less protective melanin than darker skin. Nonetheless, with sustained exposure, all skin can be damaged by the sun.
Good sun protection habits for babies under 6 months old.
A baby’s skin is thinner and more delicate than an adult’s and therefore burns
more easily. For this reason, it’s best to avoid exposing infants to direct sunlight whenever possible.
During the hot summer months, you might even consider planning your outdoor family adventures during the cooler times of the day. And, for outdoor events, bringing along a wide umbrella or a pop-up tent is always a good idea.
The best sun protection for young babies (and everyone really) is shade and clothing. We recommend lightweight, slip-on clothing that covers most of your baby’s skin. Fabrics with built-in sun protection and an SPF rating of 30 or more are a great choice. Garments that aren’t SPF-rated are also fine. Simply put your hand inside to make sure you can't see it through them.
Also, choose a wide-brimmed hat that shades your baby’s face, neck, and ears.
Soft fabrics that enable babies to rest their heads are ideal, and hats with an adjustable crown will last through growth spurts. If the hat is secured with a long strap, ensure it has a safety snap and place the strap behind your baby’s head to avoid it becoming a choking hazard. We love Flap Happy hats!
We recommend minimizing the use of sunscreen on babies less than six months old but it’s okay to use a little bit on small areas of exposed skin.
Healthy sun protection habits for babies, toddlers more than 6 months old.
After 6 months of age, you can try getting your baby or toddler to wear sunglasses to protect their eyes. Children’s eyelids, and the skin around their eyes, are more delicate than adults, so sunglasses are a great idea if they’ll tolerate them. If not, a wide-brimmed hat will still do the trick.
Fashion or play sunglasses are not ideal. It is better to choose ones that offer 99% protection from both UVA and UVB rays, break-resistant frames, and impact-resistant, scratch-proof lenses. If you’ve ever experienced the strength of a baby’s grip you’ll know why we’re suggesting this!
Also, look for large wraparound-style glasses that fit snugly. An elastic head strap that makes it harder for babies to yank them off is definitely an added bonus.
Additionally, after 6 months, sunscreen is recommended for all kids regardless of their skin tone.
Choose something 30 SPF or higher and apply it between 15 and 30 minutes before going outside so it has time to absorb into the skin. Then reapply every two hours, or more often if your kids are swimming, sweating, or after a toweling off.
Don’t skimp and be sure to rub the sunscreen in well. Use enough to fully cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose, ears, feet, hands, and backs of the knees,
Remember that sun damage isn’t reserved for beach days. In fact, most accidental sunburns happen during day-to-day activities like playing in the backyard or going for a walk. Most of us have also learned the hard way that you can get burnt on cloudy days, almost as easily as sunny days, and that the sun’s rays intensify around water, sand, snow, and concrete.
Finally, keep in mind that sunscreen does not filter all of the sun’s damaging rays so shade, covering up, and large floppy hats are always good ideas.
Understanding and choosing a sunscreen to best protect babies and toddlers from sun burns.
We recommend choosing brands that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients. These are called physical, or mineral sunscreens, and are safer for babies and children (and everyone really) because, unlike chemical sunscreens, they’re not absorbed into our bloodstream.
However, please do note that any sunscreen is always better than no sunscreen.
We also recommend choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen because it will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays, and SPF of at least 15, but ideally 30.
Also, know that there’s no such thing as waterproof or sport proof sunscreen and that sweat and water will eventually wash away all kinds of sunscreen. Water-resistant sunscreens usually do last a little longer but still need to be reapplied after 40 minutes if your children are swimming or sweating.
The words ‘baby’ or ‘sensitive skin’ usually means the sunscreen contains only titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as active ingredients. However, these terms may also indicate that the sunscreen doesn’t contain fragrance, oils, PABA, or other common active ingredients found in chemical sunscreens.
In short, the FDA doesn’t define the words ‘sport’, ‘water-resistant’, ‘baby’, and ‘sensitive skin’ when it comes to sunscreen. These terms are applied by marketing folks, not scientists, so it’s important to understand their limitations and read the label on the bottles.
Building lifelong healthy sun protection habits starts when you are a baby or toddler.
Like with everything, the best way to teach your kids healthy sun-protection habits is to model good behavior. Consistently applying sunscreen before going outside, covering up, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and seeking shade are the best ways to lead by example.
Avoid accidental burns by setting a timer on your phone to remind everyone to re-apply during beach days!
We also think it helps to allow kids to apply some of their own sunscreens. This can help avoid battles and teaches them to take care of their body. You’ll likely need to help them fill in the gaps after they’re done.
When sun protection fails and a baby or toddler burns.
Despite our best efforts, kids sometimes get burned. Don’t panic. Just remind yourself there is hardly an adult on this planet who wasn’t sunburned at least once as a kid.
If your child gets a sunburn be sure to keep them hydrated with water, milk, breast milk, or formula. You can also cool their skin with a cold compress or a cool bath or apply a gentle moisturizing lotion or aloe vera gel. If they are experiencing pain, a little children’s Tylenol will likely help.
We recommend calling your pediatrician if there is blistering, pain, or fever.
Of course, keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn is fully healed.
As always, we also encourage you to talk with your pediatrician if you have any further questions about sun protection for children.
Now, time to go and enjoy some fun outside!
From our families to yours, Joana + Lauren