A Pediatrician Weighs in on the Best Sunscreen for Babies

It’s never too early to start thinking about sunscreen for your kids. According to Dr. JJ Levenstein of MDMoms, “Just one or two severe sunburns under the age of 18 will double the lifetime risk of malignant melanoma. Because their top layer of skin (called the stratum corneum) is so thin, solar damage happens very quickly, even for children with dark complexions. It follows that UVA and UVB protection (protecting against both aging and burning rays) should start from the moment a child’s skin is exposed to natural light. Several years ago the American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Dermatology jointly agreed that sunscreen can and should be used on all children, regardless of age, if covering up and staying out of the sun is impossible. Many families live in warm climates, travel to warm destinations, or live at higher altitudes, where UV rays are even more concentrated (as you are closer to the sun).”

When it comes to choosing a particular kind of sunblock, “Given the fragile nature of young skin—and the fact that chemical sunscreens have a greater tendency to irritate or sensitize children’s skin—mineral sunscreens are preferred. The ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide are approved for use on babies and infants, and are preferable over chemical sunscreens. These formulas are sensitive to young skin, and don’t need to soak in to be immediately effective.” Since they’re chemical-free, they’re the best option for babies as well as adults.

“An SPF of at least 15 (or better yet, 30) is desirable, preferably with UVA and UVB coverage. In addition, as little kids sweat a lot and tend to wipe their eyes often, go for a formula that’s water resistant for the maximum amount of time (usually 80 minutes). Sunscreens made specifically for children are desirable, as typically their ingredients are chosen with gentleness in mind. Hypoallergenic preparations are ideal, as they minimize risk of allergic reaction or sensitization, especially among young infants.”

In order to ensure the stuff does its job, keep a bottle on hand at all times and during those sun-filled spring and summer activities. “Reapply every hour if you’re wet, sweating or toweling off, and every two hours during outdoor playtime.”