Sun Protection for Babies and Toddlers
With the arrival of good weather, you are probably wondering if it is safe to take your baby to the beach, how long he can be outdoors and how you should protect him from solar radiation.
It is advisable to protect yourself from the sun at all ages, but during childhood, it is extremely important. Children have much longer outdoor activity than adults do, and their skin is more delicate and susceptible to damage.
Keep in mind that up to 80% of the damage induced by sun exposure occurs during childhood and adolescence, which increases the risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood. And studies show that 8 out of 10 skin cancers could be avoided if the right preventive measures were followed.
Next, we’ll talk about how to protect your little one from the damaging effects of the sun, how and when to use sunscreen safely, and some common mistakes that it’s important to avoid.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD CHILDREN’S SUNSCREEN
First, it is important to understand how sun creams work. These contain filters that offer protection against solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation. You should use those with broad-spectrum filters that protect against UVB and UVA rays, both harmful to the body:
- The UVB rays are rays of short wave that mainly affect the surface layers of the skin (epidermis) causing erythema’s, burns, and 70% of the carcinogenic effects of solar radiation.
- The UVA are long wave and reach the deeper layers of skin (dermis), being primarily responsible for skin aging.
The SPF (Solar Protection Factor) measures the ability to protect against UVB radiation.
In the face of sun exposure that could burn, the pediatric associations recommend a minimum of SPF30 to protect the skin of children.
In theory, an FPS30 value means that they will take 30 times longer to burn out than without protection. For example, if it takes 10 minutes to turn red, with an SPF30 it will take 300 minutes.
However, keep in mind that this value is a laboratory measurement under ideal conditions and the actual protection depends on factors such as:
- The activity that your child develops
- If you sweat or get in the water several times
- If you dry him with a towel
- The water resistance of sunscreen
- The frequency and amount of sunscreen applied
sun protection for babies under 6 months
Why cant you use sunscreen on babies under 6 months? The skin of a baby under 6 months is very thin and delicate, and its barrier function is not as developed as in an adult. In addition, they have less ability to sweat in the heat, and to produce melanin, so they run a greater risk of dehydration or burning.
For this reason, pediatricians recommend not exposing babies under 6 months to the sun, and avoiding the application of sunscreens that could cause toxicity if absorbed through the thin skin.
Given these recommendations, it makes no sense to take your baby to the beach while he is under 6 months.
The official recommendation is NOT to expose children under 3 years of age to the sun. However, from 6 months you can take him to the beach taking extreme precautions for protection.
It is very important to protect you from the sun with an umbrella, clothing, hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen SPF30 or SPF50.
WHAT TYPE OF SUNSCREEN IS BEST FOR BABIES?
Sunscreen creams can contain three types of filters that block ultraviolet light:
- Physical / mineral filters
- Chemical / organic filters
- Mixed filters (physical and chemical)
From 6 months to 3 years, you should only use sun creams with physical filters.
Physical filters are made of inorganic minerals. They settle on the skin as a film that blocks and scatters the sun’s rays.
They have the great advantage of acting immediately by blocking UVA and UVB light, visible and infrared light.
In addition, they are not absorbed through the skin and, therefore, do not irritate, cause allergy or toxicity.
Due to these properties, they are recommended for delicate or atopic skin.
Chemical and mixed filters are very common in sun creams and you can use them from 3 years old.
They are organic substances that absorb ultraviolet light and transform it into heat through a chemical reaction.
They have the advantage of being colorless and therefore do not leave the typical white coating on the skin. Their disadvantage is that they can be absorbed through the skin, and although they are generally well tolerated, they can sometimes cause irritation.
Chemical filters absorb UVA, UVB, or both, depending on the filter used.
It is of great importance that you look for sun creams, which indicate protection against UVA and UVB rays. In addition, they must be as resistant to water as possible (40 or 80 min).
And for them to work, experts say that we have to apply a generous amount to dry skin, in all parts of the body exposed to the sun. In general, you have to apply them 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure and repeat the application every 2 hours, or earlier if the little one has been in the water several times, has sweated a lot or you have dried him with the towel.
IS IT ENOUGH TO PROTECT THE BABY WITH SUN CREAM?
Several studies, like this one, indicate that neither sun creams nor umbrellas offer total sun protection.
It must be taken into account that a good umbrella protects from direct solar radiation, but not for indirect radiation or scattered by surfaces such as sand and water.
Therefore, when exposed to the sun for a long time, we recommend combining several protection methods:
- Wear clothing, hat and sunglasses preferably with high ultraviolet protection (UPF 50).
- Apply sun cream to areas of the skin exposed to the sun.
- Find the shade, or use an umbrella or a beach tent also with UV protection.
Currently there are multiple options for children’s swimsuits and t-shirts with UV protection (UPF). The best are synthetic fibers (lycra, nylon, polyester, and acrylic), high-density fabrics, and dark and bright colors. If you want to know more, this article is interesting.
In general, you should avoid the hours of greatest solar intensity (between 11 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon). You can take advantage of the morning and sunset when the beach is calmer and the temperature is pleasant.
If you go to the beach during noon, you must take extreme protective precautions using an umbrella, hat, clothing, sunglasses and sunscreen.
Sun creams usually have an expiration date of 12 to 18 months. That is, once you open them, you must use it in that period.
You will find the expiration date on the back label, inside a box-like figure with the indication “12M” or “18M”.
It is very important that you do not use them after their expiration date because, especially chemical filters, they stop acting and protecting. Mineral filters are more stable, but they also degrade over time.
Skin cancer is rare in children. The scientific data indicate that only 1% of melanomas diagnosed in the year are children. However, the damaging effects of UV radiation accumulate over the years and are irreversible.
Most skin damage occurs during childhood and adolescence, due to increased sun exposure and a lack of prevention, which increases the risk of developing skin cancer or skin aging in the future.
Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that you take all the appropriate prevention measures from an early age of your baby.
We recommend you read: Best Baby Carriers for Big Dads and Moms in 2021