If you’re like most parents, you’ll do anything to protect your child from harm—including the potential harm that comes from exposure to sunlight. But even if you have the best intentions, you may want to think twice before you slather your infant in sunscreen. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a consumer update reminding parents that sunscreen should not be used on infants younger than six months.
The Risks of Sunscreen for Infants
Sunscreen is part of the regular skin safety protocol for children and adults—but infants are different. Sunscreen poses more risk than benefit to infants because their skin is thinner, which means it will more easily absorb the active, chemical ingredients in sunscreen. Furthermore, infants have a high surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to children and adults, meaning that they are exposed to a higher ratio of chemicals in the sunscreen. Finally, sunscreens are not tested on infants, so no one knows the true effect they’ll have on infants. The risk of chemical exposure, allergic reaction, and inflammation is simply too high for these little ones.
How to Protect Your Baby from the Sun
The best way to protect babies from the sun is to keep them out of it. While this may not sound like much fun, it is critical. Remember that your infant has brand new skin. A sunburn at a young age is particularly dangerous and can increase the risk of skin cancer later in life.
To protect your baby’s skin, follow these tips:
- Keep your baby in the shade. If there is no natural shade, create shade with an umbrella, canopy, or even a lightweight blanket.
- Use protective clothing. Choose lightweight, tight-weave clothing and opt for long pants and long sleeves. Of course, be careful that your baby does not overheat. Infants do not sweat the way adults do and therefore, are not able to cool themselves down easily.
- Put a hat on that baby. Make sure your baby is wearing a wide-brimmed hat that provides sufficient shade and protects the ears and neck, two critical areas that are not covered with a baseball hat.
- Hydrate. Make sure your baby is sufficiently hydrated to withstand the heat and sun exposure.
- Pay attention. Watch your baby carefully for signs of dehydration, sunburn, or heat sensitivity. Fussiness, excessive crying, or redness are signs that your baby has had enough.
Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually [FDA Consumer Update]. U.S.
Food and Drug Administration website. June 25, 2012. Available at: