Stony Brook Medicine Health News
Sunscreen on Babies

Is It Safe to Use Sunscreen on Babies?

Many parents wonder whether it’s safe to use sunscreen on their babies. Using sunscreen on babies under 6 months old is generally not recommended. However, protecting a baby’s skin with other safe and effective methods is still very important.

Is It Safe to Use Sunscreen on Babies?

Pediatricians and dermatologists advise against using sunscreen on infants under 6 months, unless it’s used in small areas when it’s not possible to cover the skin with closing or hats.

Babies under 6 months have delicate, sensitive skin more prone to irritation and allergic reactions. The active ingredients in sunscreen (chemical filters that absorb UV radiation) may not be well tolerated by a baby’s developing skin, leading to potential adverse reactions. Their skin is also thinner and absorbs substances more easily than older children and adults. 

Although sunscreen use on babies isn’t recommended, protecting your baby from the sun is still necessary. Their fragile skin is more susceptible to damage from UV radiation, which can lead to sunburn, skin damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer later in life.

How to Protect Your Baby from the Sun

Besides sunscreen, there are other safe and effective ways to shield your young baby from the sun’s harmful rays, including these methods:

  • Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • Dress your baby in lightweight, long-sleeved clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to cover their skin and shield their face from the sun. Use a blanket or cloth to cover your baby’s legs and arms if their skin is exposed.
  • Use a stroller canopy or attach a sunshade to the stroller to provide additional shade for your baby while outdoors.
  • Set up a beach or sun tent to create a shaded area for your baby to play in while outdoors.
  • Monitor your baby for signs of sunburn or dehydration, such as redness, fussiness, and excessive crying. 
  • Make sure your baby is staying hydrated with breast milk or formula.

If your baby becomes sunburned, get out of the sun immediately and apply a cold compress to the areas of redness. Call your pediatrician if the skin is irritated. 

Using Sunscreen on Children Older than 6 Months

Once your baby reaches 6 months of age, it’s safe to use sunscreen for sun protection. When choosing and using sunscreen, keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Select a sunscreen containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, and avoid oxybenzone if possible. 
  • Look for sunscreens labeled as “baby” or “child-friendly,” which are best for sensitive skin.
  • Choose a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
  • Use a water-resistant sunscreen, especially if your child will be swimming or sweating.
  • Apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed areas of your child’s skin, and reapply every two hours or more frequently if they are swimming or sweating heavily. When using sprays, first spray on your hands and then apply the sunscreen to your child to avoid inhalation. 
  • Check the expiration date on the sunscreen and throw away any expired products.

Remember that skin protection is important even on cloudy days. As a general rule of thumb, if the UV index is 3 or higher, you should protect the skin from sun exposure. 

  • Saiqa Nabi, MD
    Assistant Professor of Pediatrics

    Dr. Saiqa Nabi is a primary care pediatrician who is dedicated to providing compassionate and comprehensive medical care to children from birth through 21 years of age. She brings over 20 years of expertise in diagnosing and treating a wide range of pediatric conditions. From routine check-ups to managing complex medical conditions, her goal is to prioritize the health and wellbeing of her patients.

This article is intended to be general and/or educational in nature. Always consult your healthcare professional for help, diagnosis, guidance and treatment.