Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Sun Care for Your Baby and Child June 10, 2010

As parents we have an important responsibility to protect our children from all kinds of harm and that includes properly protecting our children from the sun.  I know there is a lot of confusion amongst parents about the proper way to protect children from sunburn and from sun exposure in general so I hope this post will help clear up any confusion.

I think it is important to keep in mind why sun protection for children is so important.  Research has shown that two or more blistering sunburns as a child or as teen can increase the risk of melanoma later in life.  Excess sun exposure can lead to dehydration, fever, damaged skin, and even cataracts.   Skin cancer is the affects of cumulative sun damage starting in childhood and can, though very rarely, affect even children.  It is believed that DNA damage to skin cells that are less than 35 years old can increase skin cancer risk later in life.

The information here in this post I received from a pediatric dermatologist, from my son’s pediatrician, and from Simple Skin Beauty by Ellen Marmur, MD.



Over all Tips for Sun Care for Your Children


  • If at all possible try to avoid time in direct sunlight between 11 am to 4 pm (or just between 11 am and 2 pm even) when the sun is the strongest.  Yes, as a parent I know that this is pretty much next to impossible, but nonetheless I felt that I should mention this anyhow since it is something to keep in mind.
  • Remember that sand, water, cement, roads (and snow) reflect over one half of the sun’s rays.
  • Cloud cover and even smog do not block a significant amount of the sun’s rays from reaching the earth.  Just because it is an overcast or cloudy day does not mean that you cannot get a sunburn.


Sun Care for Babies Under 6 Months

First and foremost I want to put to rest the myth that you cannot use sunscreen on a child who is 6 months or younger.  While you don’t want to slather your baby with sunscreen at such an early age it is fine to use sunscreen on small areas of their bodies like the face and backs of the hands.  Of course your first option in order to protect such a young baby is protective clothing, a hat, and shade.   There are plenty of ways to create artificial shade for your baby with umbrellas and stroller canopies.

Sun Care Tips for Children Over 6 Months


  • Try to dress your kids in clothes that are lightweight but made with a tight weave.  Hold up clothes to the light to check the weave.  The less light that comes through the better.
  • Consider adding sun protection to clothes with SunGuard.
  • Buy your kids clothes that already has UPF protection (ultraviolet protection factor) especially their swim clothes.  It is actually pretty easy and affordable to find swim wear with UPF protection.  I’ve found items for my son with UPF protection at Target, Old Navy, and even the Disney store.  Or buy through One Step Ahead which pretty much has a solution for every real (or imagined) child issue.  Another great online site for clothes, sunglasses, and sun stroller covers for kids is Shady Lady Products.  I was impressed by both the selection and prices on this site.  They even sell a book about sun safety for children.
  • Consider buying your child sunglasses with UV protection.  One Step Ahead is a good source for that.
  • Make sure your child wears a hat.  I’ve been buying my son bucket style hats since they shade his face, ears, and neck.  Getting a child to wear their hat is a whole other story, of course.
  • Use sunscreen yourself and reapply so that your children learn from your example.  Wear a hat too.
  • Use sunscreen on your children.

Sunscreen for Kids


  • Remember that if all possible to apply sunscreen to your child about 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside so that the sunscreen has enough time to start working.  I know this can be hard so just try to keep it in mind.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen on your child – don’t skimp!
  • Make sure to cover your child’s entire face including ears.  Don’t forget their feet or the backs of the knees.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.
  • Reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming or after your child has been sweating excessively.

What to Look for in a Sunscreen:


  • Make sure that your sunscreen is broad-spectrum so that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use a sunscreen that is at least SPF 15 though 30 is preferable.  Spfs higher than 30 don’t offer much more protection since spf 30 already blocks 97% of the sun’s harmful rays; spf 30 will give your child more than adequate protection as long as you apply enough and reapply it.
  • “Waterproof” and “water-resistant” sunscreens offer about 4 to 20 minutes of protection while you are swimming.

Which Sunscreen Should You Choose:

Of course since the EWG annual sunscreen report came out recently there are many concerned parents, and I feel that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the report yet again (see my earlier post about my opinion on the report).  By all means follow the EWG’s sunscreen ratings if you want.  Just know that the EWG seriously disapproves of spray sunscreens which, in my opinion, are a god sent to parents who have fidgety and/or uncooperative kids.

  • Most doctors recommend using a pure mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide on babies and on children’s faces.  (I actually found that my son developed a rash on his face, though not on his body, when I used a chemical sunscreen on his face)
  • The pediatric dermatologist that I took my son to recommended Blue Lizard sunscreen (which, by the way, gets a good rating from the EWG if that is important to you).  She also recommended Walgreens zinc oxide paste sunscreen for his face.  Last summer I had no trouble finding this sunscreen, but this year I couldn’t find it any more at my local Walgreens.  Instead I bought him Walgreens Spf 70 sensitive skin sunscreen since it was the only one I could find that just had zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in its active ingredients.  I saw online that Walgreens also sells another mineral sunscreen – Walgreens Baby spf 60 pure and gentle sunscreen stick.
  • In her book Simple Skin Beauty Dr. Marmur writes that her children use Banana Boat Kids Quik Sunblock Spray Lotion.  I couldn’t find that exact product online but Banana Boat has plenty of sunscreen options.  I bought Banana Boat Sport Spray spf 50 for my entire family to use on our bodies this summer.


What to Do if Your Child Gets a Sunburn


  • If your child is less than one years old and gets a sunburn call your doctor immediately.
  • If your child is over one and gets a sunburn call your doctor if there is blistering, pain, or fever.
  • In case of a mild sunburn:

                      Give your child water to replace lost fluids

                      Use cool water on the skin to make it feel better

                      You can give your child medicine to relieve pain – but consult with a doctor first

                      Only use medicated lotions on your child if your doctor oks it

                      Keep your child out of the sun until the sunburn heals

Here are some kid sun safety tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation.

 Thank you to Jenny Silverstone from Mom Loves Best for the great inforgraphic!

I hope these tips help.  Have a great and sun safe summer! 


Skincare for Your Baby March 4, 2010

Harper’s Bazaar has a regular feature about how to wear fashion trends according to your age.  They even wrote a whole book about it.  So I thought – why not write a few blog posts about skincare according to age?  I’ll begin by addressing how to care for your baby’s skin.

Please note – this post contains recommendation for how to care for your baby’s skin.  The recommendations here are not meant to replace the care and advice of a trained medical professional.  Please see a doctor if you have concerns about your baby’s health.

I learned the information contained in this post the hard way.  Two and a half years ago my husband and I had a baby boy during the winter in Chicago.  Pretty soon after his birth our son developed a list of skincare issues – dry, red skin (eczema), lots of crusty patches on his scalp (cradle cap), and a red, nasty looking patch on his cheek (a staph infection).  My husband and I were extremely well-meaning new parents but, I’ll admit it, clueless.  We followed our pediatrician’s recommendations for bathing our son but never thought to moisturize his skin after his baths or ever.  But as luck would have it our son went to see a pediatric dermatologist before he was six months old because of the hemangioma birthmark  he was born with on his chest.  The pediatric dermatologist gave us the best advice we could have received on how to care for our infant son’s skin.  Since following her advice our son’s eczema has disappeared with only one or two minor reoccurrences.  As for the terrible cradle cap our pediatrician helped us learn how to care for that.  And the staph infections?  A prescription topical cream took care of that.

So what did we learn?

Be gentle:  There is no reason to buy skincare products that are marketed for use only on babies or children.  Personally I also see no reason to go the all organic or natural route since there is little or no regulation over these terms.  Instead look for skincare products that are fragrance free (fragrance can cause major skin irritation to sensitive baby skin) and marketed toward people with sensitive skin.  Many skincare products that are labeled “for babies” contain lots of fragrance that can easily irritate a child’s skin.  We wash our son with Cetaphil cleanser.  Immediately afterwards we moisturize his entire body, from head to toe, with either Cetaphil moisturizer (in the winter) or Lubriderm (in the summer).  Another plus about using the above mentioned products?  We are able to buy the Cetaphil products and Lubriderm at our local Costco wholesale store which means we always have plenty on hand and save money too.

If your child does have eczema you can get a prescription cream to apply to that area until the dry, red, and itchy patches disappear.  After that be sure to gently clean your child’s skin and moisturize it.  That should help prevent the eczema from returning.

Cradle Cap:  As I mentioned above our son had a terrible case of cradle cap.  I tried to alleviate our son’s cradle cap with a well documented natural “cure” – you massage your child’s head with olive oil, gently brush the scalp, and then rinse it.  Unfortunately this did nothing for our son’s severe cradle cap.  Luckily my doctor suggested using a very small amount of anti-dandruff shampoo to wash our son’s hair (our pedetrician recommended Nizoral shampoo) and this took care of the problem.  When I took a break from using the anti-dandruff shampoo our son started getting seborrhea on his scalp.  Once we started using the anti-dandruff shampoo on a daily basis that problem disappeared, never to return.

Diaper Rash:  Unfortunately, at some point or another your baby will probably get a red, irritated bottom.  It will be very painful for your baby when you change their diaper.  Look for diaper creams with zinc oxide in them since zinc oxide is both soothing and protective.  Two creams that my husband and I found worked great are Desitin and A&D Ointment with Zinc Oxide.

When we get closer to summer I am definitely planning on devoting an entire post to baby and child sun protection.  In the meantime I just want to mention that it is a myth that you should not use sunscreen on children under the age of 6 months.  In addition, children need sunscreen year-round, just like adults.

Further Reading:

  • Baby Skin Development and Treatment by Kim Walls – Skin Inc. July 2009.  I don’t agree entirely with all that she writes in this article, but it is a good introduction to how the skin develops.
  • Baby Skin – by Paula Begoun  As with all of Begoun’s product ratings use her reviews as a guide, not as the word of law
  • Toxic Baby-Care Products by Paula Begoun

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