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Baby Sunscreen

Expert Pediatrics Q&A

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Updated April 28, 2014

Q. When can I start using sunscreen on my baby to protect her from the sun?

A. It used to be advised that you should not use sunscreen on babies less than six months old, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now states that sunscreen is probably safe to use on younger children, especially if you just use it on small areas of your baby's skin that is exposed to the sun and not protected by clothing, such as the infant's hands and face.

Still, younger children should be kept out of direct sunlight because they can burn easily and may not be able to handle getting overheated as well as older children. So even though it is likely safe to use sunscreen on kids less than six months old, it is safer to keep them out of the sun.

Other tips to keep your kids safe from the sun:

  • Use a water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 to 30 that provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

  • Other characteristics of the best sunscreens and sunblock for young kids include that they are hypoallergenic and fragrance free and come in a form that is easy to use on your child, whether that means it is a gel, lotion, spray, continuous spray, etc., so that you will actually use them.

  • Apply enough sunscreen to protect your child. Most experts estimate that many parents only use about half of the recommended amount of sunscreen on their children, providing less protection than they think.

  • Be sure to reapply sunscreen regularly and at least every 2 hours, or more often if your child is swimming or sweating.

  • Remember to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before your child will be exposed to the sun.

  • Use sunscreen even if it is cloudy outside. Clouds don't absorb all of the UV radiation that may harm your child.

  • Avoid sun exposure when the effects of the sun are the strongest, which is usually from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

  • Use physical protection, including clothing, such a hat with a 3-inch brim, lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and/or a stroller, tent, umbrella or tree.

  • Encourage your children to wear sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet rays.

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