Skin UV protection for babies and young children

Hi Dr. Irwin, I appreciate all the information and recommendations on sunscreen! I’ve implemented many of your suggestions but would love to hear your recommendations for kids. I live in Florida and have a new baby (just turned 5 months) whose skin I’d like to protect. Many sunscreen labels say they aren’t recommended for those under the age of 2, however I’d think a high-zinc physical sunscreen would be better than a sunburn. I know we can buy SPF clothing for the beach and play under a tint, but I feel like I need to cover him in a sunscreen. Also, do you recommend covering him with a daily sunscreen for running errands, etc. even while home? I always put something on my face, arms, and chest but haven’t started putting a daily sunscreen on him yet. Thanks for your advice!

It does feel like the sun is getting more intense, doesn’t it! So your question is even more timely.  And we moms/dads really care about our kids health.  Here are some thoughts for you. There’s no science that I know of on some of the below, so I’m mixing the science with some common sense. My kids were pretty agreeable to all this …until they hit certain teenage years. And then maybe we need to pick our battles, and let them figure certain things after gently reminding them about 100 times.  🙂

Babies and children before they are walking:

In my opinion, it’s not a good idea to put much sunscreen on babies under 1 year or so.  And yes, zinc is the best if you really need to.  The problem is that most sunscreens have some chemicals in the base also that you might not be wanting to slather all over them.  Having said that, there are a number of good organic skincare lines for babies, and some of them make a sunscreen.  Try the Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen.  Also, light weight protective clothing is great and a little hat.  The clothing doesn’t necessarily need to be the official SPF type, especially if you are keep her/him mostly in the shade. Babies can get heat stroke so watch them carefully for signs if it’s hot.

Babies and children after they are walking to age 2ish

It gets harder when they walk, because they want to go everywhere! But they are also bigger so that helps. We used to have these little “sun suits” for them.  They were so EASY and virtually no fighting with them then. You just zip them up, sunscreen their little hands, feet and faces and you’re done.  Lightweight and fast drying, these things are genius. Try a hat too.  Some children just won’t tolerate them, but most will.  Try the Sun-and-Surf Bodysuit at L.L.Bean or the Hanna Anderson Sunblock Rash Guard Suit.  “Bucket” hats are also great.

Children 2 to 5ish

At this age, many will still wear the sun suits.  We used to call them “surfer suits” or rash guards to make them sound cooler and get better acceptance.  But some will like sunscreen better.  Kids tend to like the sprays …but most people can’t apply them evenly so be careful with them. Spray first and them rub in well to ensure even coverage.  Use higher zinc sunscreens (10-20 percent) whenever you can because zinc is the only sunscreen ingredient that really screens out UVA well.

I hope this helps,

Dr. Brandith



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