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Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?

Can Babies Wear Sunscreen?

Babies have very sensitive skin compared to adults and there are certain conditions to follow if you want to apply sunscreen on them.

Melissa Suraya Ismail

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We all know that wearing sunscreen is very much advised here, especially in Malaysia where sun rays are just a constant part of our lives.

Not only do they protect us from harmful Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) that may cause skin cancer in the long term but they also have anti-ageing benefits. No wonder many dermatologists recommend the use of sunscreen.

However, does this apply to babies too? Is it recommended or do the chemicals pose any harmful effects on the baby’s sensitive skin?

Let’s find out all about it!

At what age should we start using it on our children?

A baby’s skin is thin, extremely sensitive and can burn easily.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, infants can develop sunburn more easily than adults because their skin has an increased rate of percutaneous absorption and transepidermal water loss.

Credit: Pexels

Plus, the skin of all infants (not just those who have fair skin) is more susceptible to sun damage because of the lack of melanin, a skin pigment that provides sun protection which they will develop when they get older.

As babies are more vulnerable to sun rays, however, experts do not recommend using sunscreen for them until they are 6 months old.

This is because they have a greater risk of absorbing the sunscreen’s ingredients due to their thinner epidermis and higher surface area to body weight ratio. They can be more vulnerable to rashes and other side effects of sunblock compared to adults.

The first line of protection

Experts suggest keeping newborns and babies younger than 6 months old out of direct sunlight and in the shade. You can do this by avoiding the maximum sun exposure time from 10 am to 4 pm. Those are when the UV rays are most intense too.

(Credit: Freepik)

The first line of defence against skin cancer is actually clothing. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests lightweight clothing such as loose, long pants and long-sleeve shirts that cover most of the skin. They should also wear hats with brims to avoid the rays from getting to the neck and ears. As for the fabric structure, tighter weaves made from natural fibres like cotton, linen and hemp or synthetics are better than loose ones.

If you’re travelling in a car, make sure to put a removable mesh window shield to block sunlight from reaching your baby.

However, if you really need to go out during a time of high sun exposure, you can put on a little bit of sunscreen on the cheeks and back of your baby’s hands. After they are no longer exposed to the sunlight, the sunscreen should be immediately washed off.

When it’s time to finally introduce sunscreen

When your infant is 6 months old, you can start to introduce sunblock to them, but the other measures of sun protection should not be abandoned.

Experts favour physical sunscreens (those containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) compared to chemical ones as physical ones just stick on the skin instead of being absorbed. Chemical ones may cause irritation to sensitive skin.

You should use a broad-spectrum (protects against both UVA & UVB rays), water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

When you apply it, make sure to cover exposed areas of the skin and don’t forget the ears, neck, and back of the skin. It should also be applied 20 minutes before sun exposure and reapplied every 2 hours when you’re outdoors.

(Credit: Freepik)

For the texture, cream and lotions are better for an even application. If you’re using a spray, you should spray it on your hands first, and then massage it to your little one’s skin.

However, do test out a little amount on your baby’s wrist first for a few days to see if they could have any allergic reactions.

Here are some of the suggested baby sunscreens recommended by Dr Lim Ing Kien or known as Dr Ingky, a Malaysian aesthetic dermatologist. Check out the list here.

He also listed out some mistakes that people commonly make when it comes to using sunblock.

Applying sunscreen is a good start but applying it correctly goes a long way.

READ MORE: Can You Drink A Sunblock? Netizens Raise Safety Concerns Over Beverage Product

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