Are sunscreens and suncreams suitable for babies?
It is recommended that parents should keep children under six months out of direct sunlight altogether. This is because a baby's skin is very sensitive to sunlight. For children over the age of six months, sunscreens play an important role in a sunsafe regime in helping to protect skin from the sun's harmful rays that can burn and also cause premature ageing and skin cancer.
For sunscreen, as with all cosmetics, making sure that products we use are safe is the number one priority of the cosmetic industry. Strict cosmetic regulations require a specific safety assessment for all products, including sunscreens intended to be used on children under three years old.
Top tips for keeping babies (over 6 months old) and toddlers safe in the sun
Keeping your baby in the shade as much as possible helps to keep them cooler, as well as safer from the sun, but when they have to go out in the sun:
Keep them covered: One of the best ways to protect your child's skin from the sun's rays is to keep them covered up with loose-fitting, tightly-woven clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Children's eyes can be more sensitive to UV light than those of adults, so they also need protection. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses for your child with 100 percent UV filtration (toy sunglasses may provide no protection at all and could be harmful. This is because dark glasses encourage the pupils to expand and if UV rays are not filtered by the glasses, the eye can get increased exposure).
Stay in the shade: Set up your children's play areas in the shade so they are less likely to suffer from over-exposure to the sun. The sun is usually at its most intense between 11am and 3pm, so shade is even more important during this time.
Wear sunscreen: The British Skin Foundation recommends that children use a minimum SPF 30 product which also has UVA protection. Of course, it is important to try to keep sun exposure to a minimum for young children, especially babies under the age of six months. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun and re-applied every couple of hours throughout the day. Remember to re-apply if your child has been playing in the water and never use sunscreen to extend the time they spend in the sun.
Healthy and hydrated: Make sure your child drinks plenty of water, particularly in hot weather; keeping up water intake prevents dehydration and maintains healthy kidneys and bladder.
Vitamin D and the sun: Vitamin D is essential for good health and, in particular, to maintain healthy bones; - but excessive sun exposure can cause damage too, so there needs to be a balance. Sunlight acts on the skin to produce vitamin D. It is still possible to get all the vitamin D the body needs from incidental sun exposure, even if you're wearing sunscreen. Most people have sufficient exposure to the sun in their day-to-day lives to produce adequate amounts of this vitamin. It is not normally necessary to seek extra unprotected sun exposure. Cancer Reesearch UK has a great website called SunSmart which gives helpful information and advice, with a specific section on vitamin D.