Baby Care

Protecting delicate skin from harmful UV radiation: Sun safety tips for babies and children

As summer starts, it’s crucial for parents and caregivers to make their kids’ sun safety a priority. Babies and young children have thinner and more sensitive skin that is more vulnerable to the damaging effects of harmful ultraviolet, or UV, radiation. 

By encouraging good sun protection practices early in life, you can help safeguard your children from skin damage, such as sunburn, and aging, such as wrinkles. 

It’s vital to protect little ones while they’re playing in the sun, because reducing the risk of sunburn during early childhood can significantly lower the risk of developing skin cancer. Just a few blistering sunburns can double the risk of developing serious forms of skin cancer later in life. 

Sun protection for babies

For babies under 6 months old, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests they stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Their delicate skin is not yet protected by melanin. And since the health effects of sunscreen chemicals on babies have not been well studied, it’s best to avoid using SPF products on them.  

The most effective form of sun protection for babies is to keep them indoors during peak sunlight hours, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. When outside, use carriers and strollers with a canopy or hood, and remember an umbrella to create shade and avoid harmful UV rays.

When they will be out in the sun, dress your baby in tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes that cover their arms and legs, including wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.

Infants more than 6 months old, toddlers and children

For babies and infants over 6 months of age, choose mineral-based, chemical-free sunscreens. Those made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide are safe for this age group. 

Learn to recognize the signs of sunburn, such as pain and redness on the skin. If you notice those signs on your young one, take them inside or to a shaded area. Then take immediate steps to help them feel more comfortable.  

And watch for signs of dehydration, such as fussiness, excessive crying and swelling. To keep children hydrated when they’re outdoors, offer fluids regularly.

To ensure proper sun protection for toddlers and young children, apply sunscreen on skin that’s exposed. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label. 

Choose a sunscreen with an SPF between 30 to 50, and consider using a mineral-based SPF product without ingredients that could cause an allergic reaction, such as fragrance.

Remember to apply sunscreen generously and reapply it often, especially if your child is playing in water or sweating. Keep an eye on the time and reapply every two hours.

When possible, avoid aerosol or spray sunscreens. They can pose harm to the respiratory system and might be contaminated with cancer-causing benzene

Try to avoid sunscreens that contain ingredients of concern, such as oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate. 

Sun protection year-round

For their health and well-being, little ones need sun protection year-round, not just during summer.

Make it a habit for your kids to wear sunscreen with SPF between 30 to 50 whenever they’re outside, no matter the time of year.

Best sunscreens marketed for kids

The EWG VERIFIED® mark provides a reliable and easy way for parents and caregivers to identify healthier sunscreens that offer effective protection against harmful ultraviolet rays.

With our commitment to transparency and consumer well-being, this summer we’ve raised the bar by offering sunscreens bearing the EWG VERIFIED mark. Parents and caregivers can be confident that the products they’re using on their kids – and themselves – are free from chemicals of concern.

The best sunscreens marketed for kids:

Top-rated sunscreens for babies and children

For more good options, check EWG’s top-rated sunscreens for babies and kids: 

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