What Sunscreen Should You Put On Your Baby?

By Stef Crowley-Clough

It’s no secret that we like to lead an outdoor, adventure-rich lifestyle, but being out and about means being exposed to the elements. So what’s the deal with sunscreen & UV rays? And how can you make sure you & your family are protected?  

We talked to our co-founder, Dr. Scott McGregor, to answer the most common misconceptions about sunscreen and babies.

If your baby is between the age of 0-6 months…

Infants under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight. Their skin is too sensitive for the sun and most sunscreens. It possesses very little melanin (the pigment that gives colour to skin), and little hair. Therefore, babies are especially susceptible to the sun's damaging effects.

Avoid the sun and the use of sunscreen if you can, but we understand how tough that may be for some Australians. If you are to use a sunscreen on your baby, use broad spectrum SPF 50+ at least, and be sure to do a patch test first to make sure of any allergies.

What else can you do to protect your baby?

Use removable mesh window shields to keep direct sunlight from coming in through the windows of your car, or invest in UV window film, which can screen almost 100% of ultraviolet radiations without reducing visibility.

Take walks early in the morning before 10 AM or after 4 PM and use a pram with a sun-protective cover.

Dress your baby in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs.

Choose a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet that protects your baby's face, neck and ears. A baby who wears a hat during the first few months will get used to having it on.

If your baby is between the age of 6-12 months…

Your baby is at a much safer age to introduce sunscreens. Try to avoid anything with oxybenzones, PABA’s, parabens and retinyl palmytate, as they may either cause allergies or potentially disrupt hormones.

Apply a broad-spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen to all areas left uncovered, such as your baby's hands, feet and ankles.

Sunscreen must be applied 30 minutes before going outside, and reapplied every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.

Sunscreen for toddlers & school-aged kids...

Protecting toddlers from the sun requires a little more thought and effort. It is important to educate your child and care-givers.

Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen lotions with an SPF 50+ or higher. Avoid spray-on sunscreens, as they provide inadequate coverage.

Make sure your child seeks shade between 10 AM and 4 PM. Check the outdoor area where your child plays to make sure there is adequate shade.

Make sure toddlers are covered. Long-sleeved, unbleached cotton clothing that is cool and comfortable, whilst also being highly protective. Clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) listing on the label offers extra security. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends clothing with a UPF of 30 or higher.

Don't forget hats and sunglasses. Choose a wide-brimmed hat that protects face, neck, and ears. 

When should you apply sunscreen?

If the UV index is above 3 or if you’re going to be outside for more than 8 minutes (some fair-skinned people can be sunburnt in even less time)!

In Australia, in most areas, there are not many days where the UV index goes below 3 for any extended length of time. This means that for the majority of Australian winter, you’re at high risk for sun damage. Sunscreen should be an all year, daily routine.

So how much sunscreen do you need to apply?

Most people do not apply enough sunscreen…

The average-sized adult needs a teaspoon of sunscreen for their head and neck, each limb and for the front and the back of the body. That is about 35ml of sunscreen for one full-body application.

How long before sun exposure & how often do you need to apply sunscreen?

Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside and re-apply again every two hours (whether or not the label tells you to do this).

Remember to reapply after swimming or excessive sweating.

Does cloud coverage protect you from UV Rays?

No! Cloud cover reduces UV penetration to the skin by as little as 20%. So don’t think that a cloudy sky gives you much protection.

Same goes for driving, windscreens only give minimal protection.

Sunscreen is just one component of sun protection!

SLIP SLOP SLAP SEEK SLIDE!

SLIP on a shirt, SLOP on some sunscreen, SLAP on a hat, SEEK shade, SLIDE on sunglass.