When is it safe for a baby to use sunscreen?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that babies should be kept out of the sun until 6 months of age. Use sun protective shades, clothing and hats to block baby’s skin from harmful sunrays. If clothing and shade cannot fully cover the baby, the AAP recommends using sunscreen or sunblock with SPF15 or higher on small areas. However, the US Food and Drug Administration and The Skin Cancer Foundation both advise against sunscreen before 6 months of age. One thing is clear: keeping baby out of the sun is top priority when they are under 6 months.  

The Skin Cancer Foundation mentions two reasons that sunscreen use is controversial before six months. One is that babies may have a higher susceptibility to dermatitis or other irritations due to the immaturity of their skin and their lack of a functioning acid mantle. The second is that babies also tend to put their skin in their mouth, which may be harmful.

How do you use sunscreen on a baby?

When a baby is over the age of 6 months, the AAP and the US FDA and The Skin Cancer Foundation agree on the following as their sun safety guidelines:

  1. Keep baby out of the sun between 10AM and 4PM, as this is the peak time for exposure to sunburn.
  2. Continue using protective clothing and shades to shield baby from the sun.
  3. Combine the above with SPF15 or greater.
  4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after any exposure to sand, water or sweat as these can decrease the efficacy of the sunscreen.
  5. Physical sunblock is more effective for babies than chemical sunscreen. Look for products that contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide as these are less likely to irritate baby skin. One such product, the ThinkBaby Safe Sunscreen Stick, can double as a heavy-duty diaper cream!

 What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Sunblock combines ingredients to act as a physical block on top of skin, while sunscreen becomes a chemical filter after being absorbed into the skin. For more about this, see here