Health Maintenance > Sunscreen for Infants

Sunscreen for Infants

Everybody knows that kids need to wear sunscreen when outside in the summer sun.  And it needs to be reapplied every two hours - even if the manufacturer claims that a single application lasts 4-8 hours, don’t believe the label!

But what about little babies under 6 months?

For decades, doctors advised against sunscreen for babies under 6 months.  However, there seems to be nothing in the sunscreen itself that’s actually bad for little babies.  (I’ve even spoken to the engineers at Johnson & Johnson; they can’t explain the recommendation!)  I suspect that the recommendation to avoid sunscreen under 6 months of age came about because somebody was afraid that parents might get too relaxed.  Might a parent apply sunscreen to a little infant’s skin, then take him out on the boat all day?  I hope not!  Common sense will help guide us.

I think it’s perfectly safe to apply sunscreen to the skin of little infants, even under 6 months.  (Avoid the eyes; it stings!!)  But I wouldn’t take the baby out in direct sun for very long (use your judgment), and certainly avoid direct sun between 11 am and 3 pm.  Re-apply the sunscreen every 2 hours or so, just as with the older kids.  If you’re on the beach or by the pool, or if it’s really hot, pay attention to the baby’s hydration status and give extra fluids (water or the baby’s usual feeds).

I’ve heard dermatologists say that 85% of a person’s lifetime risk of skin cancer comes from the sun exposure accumulated before 15 years of age.  So slather on the sunscreen, especially on an infant!

     --  Dr. Epstein