9 Smart Sunscreen Tips for Babies and Kids
Sunny days are one of the great joys of summer, and yet, soaking up those warm, golden rays can be…really risky! Melanoma tragically kills thousands every year, and just five bad sunburns can double a person’s chance of developing severe skin cancer.
Fortunately, simple sun protection goes a long way to protect not just our skin from sunburn…it could also save our lives! And because kids and babies are especially vulnerable to the sun’s harsh beams, it makes it even more important that we practice sun safety.
Here are a few tips to follow before you head out for some fun in the sun!
Use sunscreen alternatives for babies under 6 months.
Babies under 6 months ideally shouldn’t wear sunscreen. Instead, protect your lovebug in other ways: Find a shady place to sit (or put that stroller canopy to use), and dress your little one in a sun hat and loose-fitting clothing that cover her arms and legs. If shade and protective duds aren't available, use sunscreen on small areas, like the face.
Consider mineral sunscreens.
There are two types of sunscreens: 1) mineral sunscreens which work by forming a UV-deflecting barrier on the skin, and 2) chemical sunscreens, which create a chemical reaction that changes UV rays into heat. Of the 16 active ingredients used in sunscreen, the FDA has decided only two are conclusively safe and effective: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are the two ingredients you’ll find in mineral sunscreen. Until more research is conducted, the jury is still out on other ingredients found in chemical sunscreens…some of which are actually absorbed in our skin. Some research indicates that one common chemical in particular, oxybenzone, may interfere with our hormones.
Because there’s still a lot we don’t know about the ingredients in chemical sunscreens, you may feel more comfortable sticking to mineral ones…especially when it comes to slopping it on your kiddos. To find a list of vetted sunscreens, take a look at the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide.
Check your sunscreen’s expiration date.
Just like the eggs and milk in your fridge, your sunscreen has an expiration date! Using a sunscreen that’s past its prime won’t protect as promised. If you can’t read the date, but you know it’s at least three years old, give that SPF the heave-ho!
Skip the sprays.
Sunscreen sprays may seem like a super convenient way to douse your on-the-go tot in a hurry, but if inhaled, they can be dangerous. Aerosol sunscreens have been known to trigger asthma and cause serious coughing and wheezing. In fact, the FDA has issued a warning against aerosol spray sunscreen for kids.
Test your sunscreen before slathering it on your tot.
If this is your first time using a certain sunscreen, put a tiny amount on the inside of your child’s wrist before you plan to use it. This way, you’ll find out if it irritates your kiddo’s skin before he’s got it all over his body. If your child does have a negative reaction, such as redness or a rash, talk to your doctor to find out if there’s a gentler version you can use instead.
Don’t skimp on sunscreen application.
To properly cover a child’s body, you need to use about an ounce of sunscreen…if you need a visual, that’s about one shot glass worth! For a child’s face, you need about a half a teaspoon. It’s especially easy to apply too little when using stick sunscreens, so make sure you really lay it on thick!
Reapply, reapply, reapply!
I know, applying sunscreen to a wiggly tot might feel a little like wrestling an alligator…but unfortunately, you may need to embark on that wrestling match a few times! Sunscreen doesn’t work all day long. You need to reapply it every two hours…and anytime your child gets wet.
Remember, sunscreen is just one line of defense.
Though sunscreen is a crucial part of sun protection, it’s not the only weapon in your arsenal! Keep your child (and yourself!) out of direct sunlight as much as possible—especially during the hours when the sun is the strongest (from about 10am to 2pm). Park yourself in the shade, and wear a hat, sunglasses, and protective clothing.
The sun can be endless fun for the whole family…as long as you practice some common sun sense!
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.