It is summer in North Carolina….. ok, not quite but it sure feels like it! Fayetteville’s weather has been record-breaking this week, and it isn’t even June. The sun is hot hot hot which means it is time to brush up on sun-safety.
When it comes to sunscreen and keeping your baby and older children safe, you do have options. The current recommendation is no sunscreen for babies under six months of age–but why is that? What are the risks and benefits to using (or not using!) sunscreen?
Sunscreen Risks and Benefits
Many sunscreens are packed with chemicals that are absorbed through the skin. The FDA explains that babies have a higher skin surface area to body weight ratio when compared to adults and older children, and this means that a baby’s exposure to chemicals in sunscreens might be greater which in turn increases the risks associated with sunscreen use. Baby skin is also thinner which protects the body less effectively and newborn skin lacks a protective barrier on the skin’s surface called a functioning acid mantle. And even if sunscreen chemicals aren’t penetrating baby’s thin unprotected skin, they’re certainly not meant to be ingested and we all know how easy it is to keep things out of a baby’s mouth! To learn more about these chemicals and which sunscreens are safest, visit www.ewg.org and learn more. For baby’s six months and older, we love these brands of sunscreen: Badger Baby, Babyganics, Alba Mineral Sunscreen, and ThinkBaby.
Alternatives to Sunscreen
If you are concerned about chemical absorption, have a newborn or young baby, or just want to skip the sunscreen try to stay in the shade as much as possible or use clothing that covers and protects the skin such as UVSkinz or Coolibar rash guards. Lightweight, loose fitting clothing is also an option, and don’t forget a hat that will protect little ears. Watch for signs of sunburn or dehydration such as fussiness, redness, and excessive crying. If you suspect your baby has a sunburn, get out of the sun, contact your pediatrician and apply a cool compress.
Hydration is Key
Whether you’re in the sun or shade, don’t forget about hydrating! Breastmilk or formula is the best form of hydration for babies. Your breastmilk will adapt to baby’s current and immediate needs, and you can try freezing some breastmilk into popsicles for a hydrating, cold treat (also great for teething). Prepare formula according to package instructions and avoid adding extra water as this could be dangerous and is not necessary to prevent dehydration.
Get out and (safely) enjoy the sun and heat!