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How to choose the best and safest sunscreen for your baby

It’s important to protect their sensitive skin, so here’s everything you need to know about baby sunblock.

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Direct sun radiation is especially risky for babies. Their young, delicate skin should be protected whenever possible while spending time outdoors. Therefore, using special sunscreen for babies is essential to protect them from damaging UV rays which could lead to sun damage and skin issues later in life. Here’s what you need to know and how to choose the best option for your little one.

How does sunscreen work to protect babies’ skin?

Babies are extremely sensitive to sunlight as they have not yet developed a natural barrier that will eventually protect them from the sun’s UV rays. At this early stage, a baby’s skin can generally protect itself for approximately 5 minutes before it starts being affected. 

The use of sunscreen is therefore essential whenever children are exposed to the sun as this will extend this period of protection. A sun protection factor of 50 is the ideal recommendation, however, babies and children should use a sun protection factor of at least 30. An SPF cream with a protection factor of 30  will effectively extend skin protection against the sun to approximately two and a half hours. 

From what age can I start to use sunscreen on my baby?

Wearing sunscreen is a given for people of almost all ages and skin types, including men, women and children. This may also apply to your baby—but it really depends on exactly how young they are, since their skin is still in the early stages of development, and therefore extremely sensitive. 

Products like Coppertone Pure & Simple Mineral Sunscreen are specifically designed to keep young kids safe—but it’s important to note that many doctors recommend avoiding all sun exposure for children younger than 6 months old. Just to be safe, you should always consult your pediatrician before using sunscreen on a young child—especially if they are under 6 months of age. 

Generally, however, infants should stay out of the sun and wear sun-protective clothing. If your child is over the age of 3, you’ll still want to limit prolonged exposure since their skin is still more vulnerable to harmful UV rays. 

Which sunscreen is safest for babies?

All unscented sunscreen is safe for babies. That said, when selecting a sunscreen for a baby or toddler, you’ll want to lean toward a cream that is designed specifically for ultra-sensitive skin. Opting for a mineral-based cream is the gentlest option possible and is therefore often the top choice for parents with young children. Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide as their active ingredient rather than the artificial elements that are found in your typical sunscreen product, too, which makes them even more appealing to parents.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

UV radiation is a form of electromagnetic energy that comes from many sources, such as lasers, black lights, tanning beds and, most importantly, the sun.

UVB rays are shorter wavelengths carrying that radiation that make up about five to 10 percent of the rays that reach us. UVB rays affect the skin’s outer layer and are the main cause of sunburn, and also play a key role in the development of skin cancer. The intensity of UVB varies by season, location and time of day.

UVA rays are long wavelengths and constitute approximately 90 to 95 percent of the rays that reach us. UVA rays are weaker than UVB rays, but penetrate more deeply into the skin’s layers. They can contribute to signs of premature aging, such as wrinkles, as well as skin cancer and hyperpigmentation.

A common misconception is that we are safe from UVA rays in the winter or if we are sitting indoors or in the shade. The truth is that UVA rays are present during all daylight hours and even throughout the winter months. Even on a cloudy day in the winter, UVA rays can even penetrate through the clouds and through windows even if we don’t see them. These are the most deceptive as we’re less likely to wear sunscreen when we don’t see the sun.

How does zinc protect against UV damage?

Zinc oxide is a naturally-sourced mineral widely used as an additive in numerous materials and products including certain types of sunscreens, ointments, adhesives, and foods.

In sunscreens, zinc oxide absorbs, reflects and scatters UVA and UVB rays It helps protect the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. It’s also gentle on your pores, which is why mineral sunscreen is the ideal choice for babies or anyone with sensitive skin.

How often do I need to reapply?

A common mistake that people make is to apply sunscreen before sun exposure and forget to reapply. Even waterproof sunscreen should be reapplied after a few hours. Make sure to read the directions on the bottle correctly and reapply several times a day. This is especially important for a baby’s skin as it lacks its own natural protection, which means it’s still too young to protect itself against the sun’s rays for longer than 5 minutes without sunscreen.

Remember to pack a good SPF 50 sunscreen for babies wherever you go and seize every opportunity to play in the sun all year round. Get in the habit of remembering the following steps and seize the sun any chance you get without negative consequences:

It is important to note that even indirect rays can damage the skin of all ages. It is not only children’s skin that is at risk and sensitive; keep in mind that their eyes also need protecting from UV light. Pick out a cool pair of sunglasses for a fun and functional solution to sun exposure. And, most importantly, have fun in the sun…safely.

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