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Kiddies and sunscreens

Updated: Jul 4, 2019

So many shoulds’ and shouldn’ts’ with child rearing that whether your baby’s bum is protected from sun rays should be somewhere mediocrely slapped in the middle of the list or down low in order of priorities. Tedious as it may seem, babies’ skin differ from adults and only start gaining resistance at around six months.

As a general rule of thumb, new parents should pay mind to keep their babies who are under six months of age out of the sun. Umbrellas, sunshades, full body clothing — whatever have you if you must expose your newborn to ultraviolet rays. And hydrate.

Sunscreens, while highly recommended for use for anyone burrowing under the hot sun, have also been plagued with a lot of safety and environmental issues as of recent. When non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested 831 sunscreens, it found that roughly 85 per cent of marketed products contained harmful chemicals and were hardly water resistance as advertised. Of this, nearly 14,000 tonnes of potential coral bleaching chemically-induced sunscreens wash off of swimmers and divers every year.

Stressful information, indeed. However, do not skim from applying infants, toddlers and young children with sunscreen. Here are some tips on how to properly apply, when to apply and what to apply to ensure your child’s carefree fun in the sun.

How and when to apply sunscreen

Children naturally have a higher skin to body weight ratio than adults, which also means they are at increased risk for side effects from sunscreen and/or its ineffectiveness. According to dermatologist Tess Mauricio, applying about half a teaspoon of sunscreen to a child’s face and one ounce to their entire body is about right — not more, not less. Slathering might seem like a good idea but more isn’t the answer. Instead, advised Mauricio, “reapply every two hours or after any time they get wet.”

Watch this brief demonstration for infant-care:

What kind of sunscreens are safe

If chemicals found in certain sunscreens are able to kill off and bleach and entire colony of coral reefs, it’s probably not something anyone should be putting on children. Ditch the complicated labels and any of these four scientific words: oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate, 4-methylbenzylidene. Basically, anything you can't pronounce.

For children, the safest bet is going with only one active ingredient: non-nano zinc oxide. The ingredient is found in most diaper rash creams and effectively blocks UVA and UVB rays. It is also less irritating on the skin and safe for the environment.

Stay away from sprays. Sunscreens are meant to go on the skin and not in the mouth.

Side tips:

1/ As with all things, sunscreens expire. Check and double check before applying.

2/ A higher SPF doesn’t necessarily mean prolonged and stronger protection against UVA and UVB. In fact, that misconception usually have people applying less frequently and staying in the sun longer. SPF refers to percentage of rays to penetrate through the skin and not an order to stay in the sun longer without reapplication.

3/ Sunscreens do not work immediately. Ideally, it should be applied 30 minutes before hitting the outdoors.


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