Parenthood is a minefield of choices, concerns, and doubt. Are you feeding your child well enough? Do they get enough sleep? To what toxins are they being exposed? The questions run endlessly through a new parent’s mind.
Research often results in more confusion as each article and study seems to conflict the next. The task of confidently making safe choices quickly begins to feel impossible. Fortunately, not all decisions have to be so difficult, and there are some, such as applying sunscreen, that you can make while remaining assured of your child’s safety.
What the Internet Says vs. What the Experts Say
A simple online search for sunscreen and infants may be enough to have you scurrying back indoors and drawing the shades. But, not so fast. If your baby is over 6 months old, head out the door with sun-protective clothing, sunscreen, and confidence. Across all reputable sources, including the FDA and Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen application on children over the age of 6 months is a safe and healthy practice. In fact, studies have revealed that the ingredients commonly cited as points of concern, such as oxybenzone, pose no threat greater than potential contact irritation.
Can I Still Use Sunscreen if My Baby is Under 6 Months Old?
Most labels and online resources direct parents to ask their pediatrician before using sunscreen on infants under 6 months. Why? According to Dr. Mercedes E. Gonzales of the University of Miami, this is only a precaution due to a lack of research in this age group. Product safety studies have not yet included children so young. However, as Dr. Gonzales notes, there is “nothing magical” that occurs in infant skin after the 6 month mark.
Making the Most Out of Sun Protection
Despite the safety of sunscreen, experts still agree that it should not be the only line of defense against the sun. Babies do have thinner, more delicate skin that is less capable of protecting them from the elements. Whenever possible, particularly during the midday hours, keep your infant out of the sun all together. When exposure is necessary, make use of sun-protective clothing such as long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses, and accompany these with a broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF of 30 or above.
As the gorgeous days of spring and the dog days of summer are quick approaching, you will likely want to get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoors with your little one. Make the most of these times, but do it wisely. Use proper sun protection, including sunscreen. It’s one parenting decision in which you can be fully confident.