Sun Care for Your Baby and Child


As parents we have an important responsibility to protect our children from all kinds of harm and that includes properly protecting our children from the sun.  I know there is a lot of confusion amongst parents about the proper way to protect children from sunburn and from sun exposure in general so I hope this post will help clear up any confusion. 

I think it is important to keep in mind why sun protection for children is so important.  Research has shown that two or more blistering sunburns as a child or as teen can increase the risk of melanoma later in life.  Excess sun exposure can lead to dehydration, fever, damaged skin, and even cataracts.   Skin cancer is the affects of cumulative sun damage starting in childhood and can, though very rarely, affect even children.  It is believed that DNA damage to skin cells that are less than 35 years old can increase skin cancer risk later in life.

The information here in this post I received from a pediatric dermatologist, from my son’s pediatrician, and from Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD.



Over all Tips for Sun Care for Your Children


  • If at all possible try to avoid time in direct sunlight between 11 am to 4 pm (or just between 11 am and 2 pm even) when the sun is the strongest.  Yes, as a parent I know that this is pretty much next to impossible, but nonetheless I felt that I should mention this anyhow since it is something to keep in mind.
  • Remember that sand, water, cement, roads (and snow) reflect over one half of the sun’s rays.
  • Cloud cover and even smog do not block a significant amount of the sun’s rays from reaching the earth.  Just because it is an overcast or cloudy day does not mean that you cannot get a sunburn.


Sun Care for Babies Under 6 Months


First and foremost I want to put to rest the myth that you cannot use sunscreen on a child who is 6 months or younger.  While you don’t want to slather your baby with sunscreen at such an early age it is fine to use sunscreen on small areas of their bodies like the face and backs of the hands.  Of course your first option in order to protect such a young baby is protective clothing, a hat, and shade.   There are plenty of ways to create artificial shade for your baby with umbrellas and stroller canopies. 


Sun Care Tips for Children Over 6 Months


  • Try to dress your kids in clothes that are lightweight but made with a tight weave.  Hold up clothes to the light to check the weave.  The less light that comes through the better.
  • Consider adding sun protection to clothes with SunGuard.
  • Buy your kids clothes that already has UPF protection (ultraviolet protection factor) especially their swim clothes.  It is actually pretty easy and affordable to find swim wear with UPF protection.  I’ve found items for my son with UPF protection at Target, Old Navy, and even the Disney store.  Or buy through One Step Ahead which pretty much has a solution for every real (or imagined) child issue.  Another great online site for clothes, sunglasses, and sun stroller covers for kids is Shady Lady Products.  I was impressed by both the selection and prices on this site.  They even sell a book about sun safety for children
  • Consider buying your child sunglasses with UV protection.  One Step Ahead is a good source for that. 
  • Make sure your child wears a hat.  I’ve been buying my son bucket style hats since they shade his face, ears, and neck.  Getting a child to wear their hat is a whole other story, of course.
  • Use sunscreen yourself and reapply so that your children learn from your example.  Wear a hat too.
  • Use sunscreen on your children.


Sunscreen for Kids


  • Remember that if all possible to apply sunscreen to your child about 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside so that the sunscreen has enough time to start working.  I know this can be hard so just try to keep it in mind.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen on your child – don’t skimp! 
  • Make sure to cover your child’s entire face including ears.  Don’t forget their feet or the backs of the knees.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
  • Reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming or after your child has been sweating excessively.


What to Look for in a Sunscreen:


  • Make sure that your sunscreen is broad-spectrum so that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 though 30 is preferable.  Spfs higher than 30 don’t offer much more protection since spf 30 already blocks 97% of the sun’s harmful rays; spf 30 will give your child more than adequate protection as long as you apply enough and reapply it.
  • “Waterproof” and “water-resistant” sunscreens offer about 4 to 20 minutes of protection while you are swimming. 


Which Sunscreen Should You Choose:


Of course since the EWG annual sunscreen report came out recently there are many concerned parents, and I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the report yet again (see my earlier post about my opinion on the report).  By all means follow the EWG’s sunscreen ratings if you want.  Just know that the EWG seriously disapproves of spray sunscreens which, in my opinion, are a god sent to parents who have fidgety and/or uncooperative kids.

  • Most doctors recommend using a pure mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide on babies and on children’s faces.  (I actually found that my son developed a rash on his face, though not on his body, when I used a chemical sunscreen on his face)
  • The pediatric dermatologist that I took my son to recommended Blue Lizard sunscreen (which, by the way, gets a good rating from the EWG if that is important to you).  She also recommended Walgreens zinc oxide paste sunscreen for his face.  Last summer I had no trouble finding this sunscreen, but this year I couldn’t find it any more at my local Walgreens.  Instead I bought him Walgreens Spf 70 sensitive skin sunscreen since it was the only one I could find that just had zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in its active ingredients.  I saw online that Walgreens also sells another mineral sunscreen - Walgreens Baby spf 60 pure and gentle sunscreen stick.
  • In her book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Marmur writes that her children use Banana Boat Kids Quik Sunblock Spray Lotion.  I couldn’t find that exact product online but Banana Boat has plenty of sunscreen options.  I bought Banana Boat Sport Spray spf 50 for my entire family to use on our bodies this summer. 



What to Do if Your Child Gets a Sunburn


  • If your child is less than one years old and gets a sunburn call your doctor immediately.
  • If your child is over one and gets a sunburn call your doctor if there is blistering, pain, or fever.
  • In case of a mild sunburn:

                      Give your child water to replace lost fluids

                      Use cool water on the skin to make it feel better

                      You can give your child medicine to relieve pain – but consult with a doctor first

                      Only use medicated lotions on your child if your doctor oks it

                      Keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn heals



I hope these tips help.  Have a great and sun safe summer!


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