*Information for this post is taken directly from the American Academy of Pediatrics website. For more information, please visit their site!
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Now that we’re a few weeks into summer, kids are officially out of school and everyone is making their way outdoors to enjoy the weather. It really is one of the most magical times of the year. But with that magic comes some really serious issues that need to be addressed. One being: sun exposure.
While it’s so much fun to spend a day at the beach with friends and family or out hiking or whatever it may be, it’s important to remember to protect your little ones (and yourself) from the sun’s harmful rays. Most sun damage is done during childhood, so as parents, it’s our job to make sure we prevent sun damage as much as we can.
But sunscreen can be overwhelming. How do you know which one to get? What ingredients should you look for? Which ones are most recommended by moms and dermatologists? And when do you even start using sunscreen? These are some of the most popular questions asked by new moms and I’m here to answer them all for you!
When Should I Start Applying It To My Baby?
Most pediatricians, as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recommend starting sunscreen when your little one is 6 months old. Under 6 months of age should be heavily protected from the sun by other means such as shaded areas, sunglasses, sun hats, extra layers of clothing, umbrellas, etc.
If you are unable to provide appropriate clothing or find shade then it’s okay for parents to apply a minimal amount of sunscreen on infants under 6 months. The sunscreen should have at least 15 SPF and should be applied only to small areas such as the face and back of hands.
While this is what is recommended by the AAP, we didn’t fully follow these guidelines. We’ve used sunscreen on Allie since birth (with pediatrician approval). And here’s why:
We live in San Diego and Allie is a May baby. It’s quite hot and sunny here a vast majority of the year and heat strokes are a very real, serious thing. With temperatures over 80 degrees or so, it’s very challenging for young babies to cool themselves off. So dressing a baby in layers to protect them from the sun just isn’t safe in my mind. And let’s be realistic here, it just isn’t doable or realistic in any way to expect us to spend the entire summer indoors, doing nothing.
Babies are much more likely to overheat and develop a heat stroke than they are to have an allergic reaction to a product you’re using.
The big issue with sunscreens on young babies is an allergic reaction. Babies skin absorb chemicals much easier than adults and their skin is much more sensitive as well. Babies are much more likely to overheat and develop a heat stroke than they are to have an allergic reaction to a product you’re using. So if your baby has an allergic reaction to something, you simply stop using it. Our little one has never had an allergy to anything we’ve used so we’re in the clear there.
At the end of the day, it’s very important to consult your pediatrician first and foremost if you’re unsure of which route to go!
What Kind Does My Baby Need?
First off, you want to look for a topical sunscreen. This is a sunscreen that sits on top of the skin rather than being absorbed into the skin. You want a sunscreen with either Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as the active ingredient. These are known as mineral-based sunscreens and are much less likely to cause an allergic reaction. They also work right away so there’s no need to wait before going out in the sun.
Chemical sunscreens are sunscreens that are absorbed into the skin. These work really well for older children and adults but they’re more likely to cause an allergic reaction so they’re not the best choice for younger children and babies who tend to have more sensitive skin.
Another thing you want to look for is an SPF of 30 or higher. Allie’s sunscreen has an SPF of 50 and mine I believe is an SPF of 75 (I take zero chances when it comes to sun exposure).
Are There Any Ingredients That Should Be Avoided?
The top ingredients to avoid are homosalate, octinoxate, avobenzone, and oxybenzone. Studies have shown that these chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstream and can disrupt hormones in your body. You’re also much more likely to have an allergic reaction from these chemicals as well.
Who Needs Sunscreen?
There are a few different myths here when it comes to sunscreen. The big one is that people with darker skin tones don’t need sunscreen. This is false. Anyone who is out in the sun needs sunscreen on their body. No one is safe from the sun’s harmful rays. So do not skip the sunscreen!
How Often Should I Be Applying It?
If you’re out in the sun for an extended period of time, then it’s important to reapply sunscreen every couple hours. Especially if your little ones are in and out of the water or are sweating a lot (in which case, you should reapply when they come out of the water).
And while you’re reapplying sunscreen to your little ones, do not forget to reapply yours as well! This is a super common mistake parents make this time of year. They’re so focused on making sure their kids are protected that they completely forget about themselves. It’s best to reapply to everyone in your group all at once. That way no one is forgotten. If needed, set a timer on your phone!
Does My Baby Need Sunscreen If It’s Cloudy?
Absolutely! The one and only sunburn our daughter has ever had occurred on a cloudy day. She was 3 months old and had sunscreen on her arms and legs. I did not apply any to her face for three reasons: 1. it was cloudy, 2. she was wearing a sun hat and 3. I didn’t want her to run the sunscreen into her eyes. Mistake. Her poor nose and cheeks were so red for the rest of the week. Do not make this mistake.
It’s best for everyone in the family to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. Especially if you live in warmer climates where you’re in summer clothes for more months out of the year. I try to add sunscreen to my morning routine on a daily basis and then reapply halfway through the day if we’re outdoors a bit. This allows it to become a habit in your everyday life which is super important!
What Other Precautions Should I Take To Prevent A Sunburn?
There are a lot of precautions you can take to prevent a sunburn, not only on your little ones but on yourself as well. The first would be to avoid peak hours. This time frame is from 10am to 4pm and it’s when the sun is at its highest point in the sky. I know this sounds like a good majority of the day, but there are plenty of other things you can do to protect yourselves!
The next best thing is to seek shade whenever possible. Here in San Diego, that’s a little more challenging sometimes, but you can always create shade by using your stroller’s hood to block the sun. One thing you do not want to be doing is covering your child’s car seat or stroller. This traps in heat and can do more harm than good.
Lastly, it’s important to dress appropriately: sunglasses and sun hats are a great addition to any outfit (and babies look adorable in these as well!) and if possible, dress them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. If it is just too hot for this, then shaded areas are your best bet!
What Do I Do If My Baby Gets A Sunburn?
A sunburn will leave the skin red, warm and painful depending on how bad it is. If it’s a severe burn, it can even cause blistering, fibers, chills, headaches, etc. It can also lead to dehydration which is why it’s so important to take the necessary precautions to prevent them as much as possible.
With that said, accidents happen and we can’t always avoid every single sunburn. That’s life. First and foremost, you want to consult your pediatrician. Even if the burn doesn’t look bad. Sunburns in babies and young children are much worse than they are for us adults so be sure to keep an eye on your little one and watch for any additional symptoms; dehydration being the big one.
After consulting a doctor, the best thing you can do for a sunburn on an infant or toddler is to apply a cool compress to the infected area. The AAP doesn’t mention anything about the use of Aloe, but according to Baby Center, you can use aloe on an infant or toddler’s sunburn (which is good because that’s exactly what we did for Allie’s one and only burn!).
Other things you can do include a cool bath, offer plenty of fluids, dress your little one in loose clothing, stay out of the sun and give Tylenol for pain if needed.
Our Top 5 Favorites
We’ve used many sunscreens in Allie’s 13 months of life (that’s what we get for living in such a warm, sunny state!). Out of all the sunscreens we’ve tried, these are our top five favorites so far:
ThinkBaby; 3oz | $8.39
ThinkBaby is dermatologist-recommended and contains UVA and UVB protection. It’s mineral-based and free from PABA, sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunscreen; 3oz | $10.89
Aveeno Baby is well-loved by so many parents. It is sweat and water resistant up to 80 minutes and contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient. It is also both tear-free and paraben-free. This is our current go-to and we love it!
Babyganics; 6oz | $9.99
This is the most affordable sunscreen in our top 5! It is free of parabens, phthalates, fragrances, and nano-particles. It is also water resistant up to 80 minutes and has both UVA and UVB protection.
The Honest Company Mineral Sunscreen; 3oz | $13.95
This is the first sunscreen we ever put on Allie (from 0-6 months). The Honest Company is a fantastic brand owned and operated by Jessica Alba and contains great ingredients. It’s non-greasy, hypoallergenic and water resistant up to 80 minutes.
CeraVe Baby Sunscreen; 3oz | $13.49
I’m a huge fan of anything by CeraVe. This sunscreen is hypoallergenic, paraben, sulfate and fragrance-free and is water resistant up to 80 minutes. This is an excellent choice for little ones with sensitive skin.