Sunscreen for babies

KM writes, “I have recently read that it is ok to apply sunscreen to infants under 6 months. Is this true? Can it be applied to the face? Is there a certain product that is better for their sensitive skin? Also, any suggestions for skin protection this summer for an under 6 month infant besides minimal sun exposure and a hat ? Thanks.”

Sunscreen can safely be used at any age, but parents need to know that that young babies may be at special risk from too much sun exposure. Young babies can’t get to shade on their own, and won’t be able to protect themselves; they also may not easily communicate that they’re becoming thirsty or dehydrated. It is more difficult for babies less than six months to control their body temperature, because they cannot sweat well—so excessive sun exposure creates a risk for elevated body temperatures, dehydration, and sun stroke.

With this in mind, it is important for very young babies to be kept out of direct sunlight, especially during mid-day when the sun is overhead. Cool shade should be provided, and nursing or bottle feeding should continue frequently while outside. Exposed skin should be protected with wide-rimmed hats and long-sleeved, cool, light-colored clothing.

There has never been any direct evidence that sunscreen itself is harmful to babies at any age. There are differences in absorption and metabolism, but using sunscreen on small areas that are difficult to cover with clothes (such as the face or the hands) is reasonable, and certainly better than allowing a sunburn. Although some bottles of sunscreen may warn against its use under six months, the American Academy of Pediatrics supports using sunscreen at any age as an additional way of protecting babies beyond shade and clothing.

Some specific brands are marketed for babies, but there isn’t any important difference between them and other products. Choose an inexpensive, waterproof product with an SPF of at least 30.

© 2008 Roy Benaroch, MD from http://www.PediatricInsider.com

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4 Comments on “Sunscreen for babies”

  1. KM Says:

    Thank you so much for the response. I appreciate the information as I worry about the sun and the summer heat. What about pools and the ocean? Is it ok for their skin to be briefly exposed to the chlorine and salt water?

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  2. Dr. Roy Says:

    Pool chlorine is fine in a properly maintained pool, and ocean water is fine too!

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  3. Dr. Roy Says:

    Bray posted this in another thread, and I moved it here:

    Is there a type of sunscreens we should be using? Does it really matter? This article seemed scary but my husband and I dont know what to think. (http://www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen/finding-the-best-sunscreens/?search=aveeno&brand_id=441&ptype=sunscreen )
    Should we worry or just keep buying what we always buy even if it did pretty horrible according to that article. Thanks, Braye!

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  4. Dr. Roy Says:

    Bray, looking through the material on that site I don’t think I’d take their position too seriously. They have a very alarmist, over-the-top sort of editorial slant, and don’t seem to provide much context or balance. See:

    https://pediatricinsider.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/fear-not/

    https://pediatricinsider.wordpress.com/2010/04/30/scary-rays-from-the-sky/

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