Keep infants out of the sun, the government says
With the constant drumbeat of reminders to put sunscreen on your skin, it might be confusing to consider what to do about that especially vulnerable skin of an infant.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administrationrecommends that, generally, babies younger than 6 months old should not have sunscreen put on their skin.
“The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, and to avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense.” says Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician at the FDA.
Why shouldn’t babies get sunscreened?
Their skin is thinner, for starters, Sachs says. That means the chemical ingredients in sunscreens are more easily absorbed. They also have more surface area for their weight, compared with older people. That also means a great exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens – and a risk of inflammation or allergic reaction, Sachs says.
The best protection for the youngest people is the shade, according to Sachs. But if there’s no shade available, a small amount of sunscreen, with an SPF of at least 15, can be applied to small areas such as the cheeks. But, the FDA says, don’t use sunscreens that contain the insect repellent DEET.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that shade the neck.