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Baby & Sun Exposure: What You Need to Know

By Emily Henricksen

presented by 

With summer around the corner Team BCB wants to make sure that you are armed and ready to protect your family—especially your baby—from the sun!  Team BCB recently sat down with Coppertone’s Pediatrician Partner, *Dr. Mona Amin (@pedsdoctalk) to learn some basic sun safety for baby.  

At what age is it appropriate to apply sunscreen to a baby?

Typically, sunscreen is recommended 6 months+. Apply sunscreen with a SPF 15 or greater to all exposed areas 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. For babies under 6 months, sun protection is important, but if you are unable to avoid the sun for an essential reason, apply a minimal amount of sunscreen 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Use sunscreen with at least a SPF 15 to small areas like the infant’s face and back of the hands.

How should you protect your baby from the sun before you are able to use sunscreen and even after you can? What are some best practices?

Keep babies out of direct sunlight. Use an umbrella, tree, or stroller canopy to cover them. Try to avoid being outside during peak sun-time. This is when the sun is directly overhead (between 10am-4pm). Put on a brimmed hat that protects their delicate face, ears, and neck. Dress them in breathable clothing that covers their arms and legs. Personally, I advise families to try to avoid prolonged sun exposure as much as possible under the age of 6 months. When you are choosing sun safe clothing, look for clothes with a tight weave. This means that if you hold it up to the sun, little light comes through the weaves. The more light that comes through, the more sun gets in. If you’re going to be somewhere with a chance of no shade, have your child wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection. These are all strategies that can help as a child gets older too. Sun protection doesn’t end after infancy.

What should you look for in sunscreen for a baby?

Look for SPF 30-50. The additional benefits of SPF 50+ are limited. The SPF number indicates how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays. If it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, applying an SPF 30 sunblock will take 30 times longer to burn (300 minutes of sun exposure before burning). Look for a sunblock that says “broad-spectrum” on the label. This encompasses protection against UVA and UVB rays. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and still remember to reapply every two hours or after getting wet. Rub into skin well! For sensitive areas (nose, cheeks, and top of the ears), choose a sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—these are usually called mineral sunscreens. Mineral sunscreens are sometimes known as physical sunscreens. These minerals simply sit on top of your skin and protect it by reflecting away UV rays. Mineral sunscreens are a great option for babies regardless of where you are applying it. Also look for fragrance free formulas, which can be less irritating to baby’s sensitive skin. For all these reasons, I recommend Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby to parents and my patients.

What sunscreen do you recommend for baby’s skin?

Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby meets all of these needs for a sunblock: 100% mineral sunscreen with Zinc Oxide, water-resistant, and free of fragrances, PABA, parabens, dyes.

If my baby will be in the shade, is sunscreen necessary?

Yes. Even with shade, UV rays make their way to our skin. So regardless of being in direct sun, it’s best to apply sunscreen if you will be outside for long periods.

What are best practices for sunscreen application for baby (i.e., when to apply it, how long before sun exposure, how much, etc.)

Apply 30 minutes before leaving the house. Apply to all parts of the body (even if under clothing) and make sure to get the back of the neck, face, and ears. For spray sunscreens, like the new offering from Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby line, you can apply spray on your hands first and then apply to your child’s face to avoid it getting in eyes.

If a baby will be going in the water, do they need waterproof sunscreen? When should we reapply after swimming?

Yes, a water-resistant sunscreen is recommended. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes BEFORE sun exposure (not just water exposure) and reapply after swimming. If not swimming, apply every two hours while in the sun. Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby stays on strong in water and is water-resistant up to 80 minutes.

Does the color of your skin matter in terms of sun protection? Are darker skinned babies better protected?

Darker skin has melanin. Melanin is the pigment in skin that gives it the darker color and it helps protect skin cells from sun damage. People with darker skin are less likely to get a sunburn, but it can still happen. Also, although darker skin people may not burn as easily, they can still experience sun damage like wrinkles and sun spots. I recommend sunscreen for all skin tones.

Should I use a mineral and chemical sunscreen on my baby?

Mineral sunscreens are best for babies. They have very simple ingredients—titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. As a pediatrician and mother, I recommend Coppertone Pure & Simple Baby because it offers safe and effective 100% mineral sun protection from naturally sourced zinc oxide. Chemical sunscreens penetrate your skin and offer protection by dissipating UV rays. By contrast, mineral sunscreens simply sit on top of your skin and reflect UV rays away from your body.

What SPF should I use on my baby?

Use an SPF of 30-50. The additional benefits of SPF 50+ are limited. The SPF number indicates how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays. If it takes you 10 minutes to burn without sunscreen, applying an SPF 30 sunblock will take 30 times longer to burn (300 minutes of sun exposure before burning).

Can I use the same sunscreen on my baby as my 5 year old?

Yes. Baby sunscreen, especially mineral sunscreen, is safe to use on your 5 year old and baby!

Does sunscreen expire? Can I use the same bottle I purchased last year or will the ingredients not be as powerful?

Yes, they can. The FDA usually requires sunscreen to remain at their original strength for 3 years, but make sure to look for any expiration dates! Expired sunscreen increases your risk of sunburns and skin damage. Storing sunscreen in a warm place is also not recommended. Check for changes in smell or texture. If it’s clumpy or lumpy, probably better to get a new bottle. I usually recommend monitoring expiration dates and the consistency of the sunscreen. Best practice would be to get a new bottle every summer when you will be outside more.

Stay tuned for more sun safety and be sure to tune in on Tuesday, May 18 for a special edition of Meet the Brands with Coppertone – live on Facebook with Dr. Mona Amin!


*Dr. Mona Amin is a Board Certified General Pediatrician and mother. She works in private practice and her passions include: early childhood development, focusing on the impact of healthy sleep, a healthy relationship with food, and healthy coping skills in the early years of a child’s life. 

 On her Instagram account (@pedsdoctalk), her podcast (The PedsDocTalk Podcast), and her YouTube Channel (PedsDocTalk TV), she shares educational information on your most common concern as a parent (i.e. fevers, rashes, viruses, behavioral issues, safe sleep, etc.) including current events. 

Through her brand PedsDocTalk, her goal is to provide reliable and easy-to-digest education for the modern parent regarding the health and wellness of their child.  

THE CONVERSATION NEVER STOPS AT BUMP CLUB AND BEYOND! Stay tuned for more from the Bump Club and Beyond Team to help you prepare for and navigate your way through parenthood.  Make sure you’re following us on Instagram and Facebook  for more ideas as we navigate parenthood together. Looking for more from BCB?  Join the BCB Community (it’s FREE!) for access to exclusive discounts, webinar replays, free samples and so much more!  Information can be found here.


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