We all know sunscreen is a good thing -- after all, you have to protect yourself from the sun's harmful rays if you spend most of your time outdoors. But can we use it on babies?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had cautioned against using sunscreen on babies younger than six months old; even today, you won't see many sunscreens recommended for use on babies that age [source: Baby Center]. The AAP has since changed its tune, but that doesn't mean you should slather your newborn with sunscreen before you head out to the beach.
The AAP says that it's okay to use sunscreen on babies younger than six months (even if the bottle recommends it for usage on older infants), but it should be used sparingly and as a last resort if shade and proper coverings aren't available. You should dress your baby in light, protective clothing and place a hat with a brim on his or her head. You should aim for shade, whether it's provided by a building, umbrella, tree, canopy or other makeshift covering.
If these options aren't available for your baby, you can use a sunscreen recommended for older babies and children. You should use as little as possible and keep it away from the infant's eyes. The chemicals used to make sunscreen can be harmful to small babies because they have more skin relative to body size than older children and adults [source: Steele]. Babies also sweat erratically and can become dehydrated as a result; this is problematic because an overabundance of sunscreen on a baby's skin can affect his or her body's ability to perspire and cool.
All in all, you should be able to use sunscreen on your baby, but only use as little as necessary -- older kids, on the other hand, should slather it on -- and stay out of the direct sun as much as possible. If a rash develops on your baby's skin, see your doctor and consider switching to a more natural sunscreen that uses fewer chemicals.
For more information, visit the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Baby Center. "Keeping your baby safe in the sun." 11/2009. (Accessed 7/29/09) http://www.babycenter.com/0_keeping-your-baby-safe-in-the-sun_421.bc
- The Bump. "Q&A: Is sunscreen safe for baby?" 5/8/2009. (Accessed 7/29/09) http://pregnant.thebump.com/new-mom-new-dad/newborn-basics/qa/is-sunscreen-safe-for-baby.aspx
- Safe Mama. "2009 Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet." 4/13/2009. (Accessed 7/29/09) http://safemama.com/2009/04/13/safemamas-2009-safer-sunscreen-cheat-sheet/
- Steele, Robert. "Sunscreen: Safe for babies?" iVillage. (Accessed 7/29/09) http://parenting.ivillage.com/baby/bsafety/0,,3q6f,00.html