Newborns and Sunscreen

Is it safe to take my newborn baby outside in the sun?

Sun exposure is damaging to the skin, and is responsible for premature aging (wrinkles, fine lines, pigmentation problems, leathery skin) as well as increasing the likelihood of dangerous conditions such as skin cancer. Parents are right to be worrying about their baby, and should be doing everything that they can to protect their baby from over-exposure to the sun.

Babies under 6 months old should not be exposed to sunlight when the sun's rays are at its peak, between 10AM and 3PM. UV light is damaging for everyone, but particularly so for young infants, as their skin is extremely thin. Even small amounts of sunlight can cause serious sunburns. Dehydration can also be a problem for babies, as their skin does not adjust to overheating by sweating as efficiently as adults. Parents should be ready with extra water or milk to feed their baby if they are outside.

What about sunscreens?

Sunscreens are one of the most effective and practical ways of mitigating sun damage. For young infants under the age of 6 months, however, we do not recommend the use of sunscreens. Although the components of sunscreens are tested for safety, they are not designed for babies who easily absorb these chemicals. Babies have extremely thin skin, and the chemicals in the sunscreen are thus more easily absorbed.

Babies also have a large surface area (of skin) in proportion to total volume, which means that they are absorbing a disproportionately large amount of chemicals from the sunscreen if applied properly. If clothing does not adequately cover the baby and a small amount of exposure is unavoidable, only use sunscreen on small surface areas like the face or the back of the hands.

Does this mean that I can't take my baby out of the house?

Parents will need to take their newborns outside to visit friends and relatives, as well as give their babies some fresh air. We recommend that parents try to avoid exposing their baby to sunlight from 10AM to 3PM. This is when sunlight is at its strongest, and can burn a baby's delicate skin very quickly. If parents must take their baby outside during these hours, they should keep the baby in the shade as much as possible, and well protected in long sleeved clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. It is important that parents carefully control the amount of exposure that the baby is exposed to.

Remember that the baby's skin does more than look pretty. It is the largest organ, and the first line of immune defence.