Sunlight and your baby's skin

Your newborn’s skin is one of the softest things on earth, but it is also one of the most vulnerable and delicate – especially when it comes to the harsh UV light of the sun.

 

A newborn baby’s skin is thinner than we realise and absorbs much more water than that of an older child or an adult. Because of this, it is strongly advised that babies, up until the age of six months, be shielded from direct sunlight completely.

 

You may then ask, ‘What about sunscreen?’ Well, there are a couple of problems when it comes to sunscreen and newborns.

 

  1. Sunscreen is loaded with chemicals. Because of the thinness, sensitivity and absorbency of your newborn’s skin, more chemicals are absorbed into your baby’s body. This is why all lotions and potions should be avoided in the first six months of your baby’s life.
  2. There isn’t any sunscreen that is ideal for newborns, and the jury is still out on its effects (most research on the effects of sunscreen deals with older children and adults). There has yet to be definitive research and/or products designed for newborns under six months.

 

The best way to protect your baby’s skin is to keep them in the shade and out of direct sunlight.

 

This includes while in the car. Though glass can block most UVB rays, UVA (the dangerous kind that causes sunburn and can lead to skin cancer) can still get through. There are UV shields available that can be bought to clip onto the car window and shield your baby – and still allow the driver to see through. Alternatively, and especially for long trips in the car, make sure your little one is wearing sun-protective clothing.

 

Once your baby has reached the six-month mark, you can start introducing them to sunscreen.

You should be using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

 

Your little one’s skin will still be much more sensitive than your own, so make sure to test for any irritation on a small area of their skin first. Apply a small dab on the inside of your child's upper arm and check the area in 24 hours for any signs of irritation, redness or rash. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, be sure to apply generously to the rest of their body and re-apply after every two hours.

 

As your baby gets older and more mobile, it gets harder to pin them down to put on sunscreen, hats and other sun protection. They just want to get outside and play and don’t yet understand the dangers of the bright light in the sky, so it’s up to you to be vigilant, and to teach them good sun protection habits.

 

The sun is at its harshest between 10am and 4pm so, if possible, try to plan outdoor playtime before or after these times, or keep playtime within these hours in the shade.

 

It might be a challenge at times for a while, but when they get older, they will thank you for taking such good care of them and their skin.