What You Need to Know About Babies & Sunscreen

If you’re going to the beach or you’re heading outside for a day in the sun, the first thing you should do is apply sunscreen. It helps block harmful UV rays that can cause burns, blisters, and even skin cancer. But, should sunscreen be applied to a newborn baby’s skin? New studies suggest that sunblock isn’t safe for infants, and here are the reasons why.  

An Infant’s Skin is Different

There are three key differences between an adult’s skin and that of a baby:

  1. As adults, we have a layer of skin called a stratum corneum, which is a dead outer layer of skin that provides protection from outside elements. Infants stratum corneum tends to be much thinner.
  2. Infants are missing film on the skin’s surface called an acid mantle. This film protects against bacteria and also facilitates the function of sweating.
  3. Babies have a higher surface area to body weight ratio than older children and adults. This means that anything applied to their skin will have more of an impact if it soaks in.

All of these factors make a baby much more susceptible to the chemicals in sunscreen because the ingredients can more easily penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. In addition, babies may directly ingest the sunscreen if they put their fingers in their mouth.

When Can a Baby Wear Sunscreen?

It is recommended by the FDA that sunscreen is not used on babies under the age of six months. When your baby is old enough to start wearing sunscreen, perform a test on a small area of skin to see how they will react. If there is no visible redness or irritation after a few hours, this sunscreen may be safe to use. When buying sunblock, try to find formulas that are made specifically for children since they contain more natural elements and less chemical ingredients. 

Guidelines for Protecting Baby’s Skin Without Sunblock

Even though sunblock isn’t recommended for your infant, you can still have fun in the sun! Ensure that you take all of the necessary steps to protect your child from the harmful effects of the sun:

  • Seek shade whenever possible. Always use a stroller with a cover over it, sit under a shady tree, or if you can’t find a source of shade, use an umbrella when in direct sunlight.
  • Make sure your baby wears a hat. A baby’s skin is very sensitive, especially on the face. A hat can help keep direct sunlight off of their nose and cheeks.
  • Cover arms and legs with breathable but protective fabric. Dress your baby in clothing that is thick enough to effectively block sunlight, but thin enough to allow air flow.
  • Hydrate! Formula or breastmilk will provide enough water to ensure your baby is hydrated. Be sure to store the drinks in a cooler for easy access.