Baby health

Why Babies Cannot Wear Sunscreen and What Parents Can Do Instead

For infants under six months, the sun-protection rules are a little different—they're considered too young for sunscreen. Here's how to keep your little one safe from the sun.

Why Babies Cannot Wear Sunscreen and What Parents Can Do Instead

Photo: iStockphoto

Experts agree that babies under six months are generally too young for sunscreen, and they can overheat easily—which can make sun protection during family outings challenging. Here’s how to keep your little one safe.

A sunburn is worse than a little sunscreen

According to the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Dermatology Association, babies under six months shouldn’t wear any sunscreen because their delicate skin barrier is vulnerable to everything you put on it—including the ingredients in sunblock.

In the case of unavoidable or unforeseen sun exposure (like if you find yourself sitting outside during a wedding ceremony, for example), Ottawa dermatologist Jennifer Beecker does recommend applying either a chemical or physical sunscreen to any exposed skin and then washing it off once you’re out of the sun.

“Ultimately, we think the risks of sun exposure—and potentially a sunburn—at that age outweigh the risk of using a limited amount of sunscreen,” she says.

Try a floatie

Without sunscreen, infants need complete sun cover, which means you’ll need an umbrella, a shade tent or a baby float with an overhead attachment. But these products don’t provide full UV protection, says Victoria Taraska, a dermatologist at the Derm Centre in Winnipeg, especially if you’re using them in or near water.

“For little babies in floaties, it’s important to remember that the sun can penetrate up to a metre into the water, and there’s a reflection off the surface as well,” says Taraska. “Parents should not use these as the sole sun protection measure.”

A hat, sunglasses, a full-coverage swimsuit or rash guard and limited pool time are still necessary to avoid sunburns, she says. (Always stay by your baby’s side in the water, of course.)

If they're too young to sit upright in a pool float, you might consider wearing your infant in a lightweight wrap, baby carrier or ring sling designed for water use. Make sure you stay in the shade while babywearing—a large sunhat for yourself could help shield the baby, too.

Stroller safety

Stroller canopies and muslin blankets only provide partial sun protection, and they should be used with caution. The temperatures inside an enclosed stroller can skyrocket within minutes on a blistering summer day.

If you’re draping a light blanket over the stroller or using a car seat cover, never close your baby in completely. Put your hand inside frequently to keep tabs on the temperature. Placing a damp cloth over their bare feet can help keep them cool while you stroll.

“If you think they’re getting too hot, use a water-misting spray bottle,” says Beecker. She also suggests dressing your baby in a rash guard, even if they’re not going swimming. “Because it’s bathing suit material, you can just wet them down for more temperature control.”

Check out these sun-protective baby products below:

1. SwimWays Baby Pool Float and Sun Canopy

It's like an Exersaucer for the water, with a mesh seat and a UV-protective removable canopy. Your baby can cool off, bob around and kick their feet a bit while you stay by their side.

Baby pool float

Of course, make sure your infant has the neck strength to hold herself upright before using a product like this. Although this piece clearly offers sun protection, it's also just loads of fun.

02Jolly Jumper Solarsafe Stroller and Play Yard Net

This UVA- and UVB-protective mesh cover allows air to circulate freely, and the stretchy elastic edge means it can fit over most strollers and playpens. It's a good alternative to putting sunscreen on babies out for quick strolls and adds meaningful protection to everyday errands.

Hollu jumper solarsafe stroller and play yard net

It also folds up into a compact carrying pouch, which is handy for tossing into your stroller storage basket. It's also one of the most affordable sun protection options, coming in well below $20.


03Anti-UV Babymoov Sun Tent

If you've got a baby who will actually nap at the beach (lucky you!), you're gonna need to create some shade. This pop-up tent is lightweight, has a UV-protective coating, and comes with its own shoulder-strap carrying case. It protects baby's skin and your peace of mind.

Anti-uv Babymoov sun tent

It also makes a good sand-free diaper change station or chill-out spot for a toddler who needs a break from full sun. It's an affordable piece you'll come to rely on at the park, in your yard and at the beach. Plus, it's one of the easiest ways for babies under six months to skip sunscreen altogether.

04Sun Protective Hats

Try a clever UPF 50+ sun protection hat for babies and toddlers like this one from I-play that comes in loads of colors and sizes. We love that it dries quickly should it get wet (ahem, put this on baby's head at the pool and beach) and offers extra-protective flaps.

I play sun protection upf 50 baby hat, sunscreen for babies under six months Merchant

A clever toggle closure keeps it securely in place while the extra long neck flaps to work protecting baby's delicate neck skin, too. We love a wide-brimmed hat for parents, too.

05Rash Guards

For a baby under six months, sunscreen may not the probable or practical, so covering little bodies head-to-toe is ideal. Aside from preventing an elevated risk of skin cancer, these adorable outfits look downright huggable with their best water shoes.

baby rash guards, sunscreen under six months old Merchant

Instead of going for a skin-baring set of shorts or teeny-tiny baby bikini, protect your little one's delicate skin with a comfortable zip-up rash guard designed to maximize UPF across arms, legs and trunk.

This adorable set comes in dozens of colors, prints and sizes and comes with a matching hat. Plus, it's an easy zip-on-zip-off style that you'll want to stick with as they get older. In general, you'll want to pick clothing that covers as much skin as possible to steer clear of the zinc oxide sunscreens recommended for older babies and toddlers.

This article contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.

This article was originally published on Jun 19, 2020

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Karen Robock is a writer, editor and mom of two whose work has appeared in dozens of publications in Canada and the U.S., including Prevention, Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, and The Toronto Star. Once upon a time, Karen was even the managing editor of Today’s Parent. She lives in Toronto with her husband, school-age daughters, and their two dogs.