Is Sunscreen Safe For Kids?
You want to protect your child from the harsh sun. But concerned about applying sunscreen? This article delves into the safety aspects of sunscreen for kids, with an informative talk with Dr Rinky.
By Team ParentCircle • 10 min read
Do you consider applying sunscreen only when it is hot and sunny outside, and do not give it a second thought during rainy season and winter? Then think again! As exposure to the sun can cause harm like sunburn, rashes and irritated skin, come rain or sunshine. Yes, the sun’s rays can harm us even on an overcast and rainy day. How do you protect your skin? With a layer of sunscreen, right? But what about your child? Are you one of those moms worried if sunscreen is safe for kids? To clear your doubts about sunscreen use in young children, we talked to Dr Rinky Kapoor, a renowned dermatologist. Hear what she has to say!
Is it safe to apply sunscreen lotions and creams on babies and toddlers? From what age can we start using it on them?
It is preferable to avoid using sunscreen on babies who are under the age of six months. However, if you must on some occasions, then select a lotion or cream with SPF 15 or minimum, with a broad-spectrum coverage (UVA and UVB). Remember to apply the cream on every exposed part of the skin including ears and neck. For toddlers, you may use sunscreen of at least SPF 30. For the lips, you can apply a lip balm that comes with SPF 30 to protect your kid’s tender lips from the sun’s harmful rays.
Why is it important to protect our kids from the harsh rays of the sun?
A child’s skin is delicate. Babies have thin skin and the melanin in their skin is still forming. Therefore, even a little exposure to the sun, and the skin burns easily. Babies under six months of age should be kept away from the sun as much as possible. And if you have to take them outdoors, dress your child in clothing that covers most of her body. Use hats with wide brims, long-sleeved tops, and umbrellas if need be, to reduce the exposure of the sun.
However, do keep in mind that a small amount of sun exposure is necessary. When the skin is exposed to the sun, our bodies make Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones. Vitamin D is ideal to prevent cold and flu in toddlers. At the same time, ensure your child is not out in the sun for too long, especially when the sun is at its harshest. Too much exposure to the sun could lead to eye damage, sunburn, dehydration, immune system suppression, wrinkles, premature aging and even skin cancer.
Also read: Is It Safe For Kids To Wear Sunglasses?
How do we protect our child from the harmful effects of the sun’s rays?
There are a couple of ways to protect your kids from the harsh summer sun and be ‘sun smart’. if you have to take them outdoors, dress your child in clothing that covers most of her body. Make them wear comfortable, long-sleeved tops. To reduce their exposure to direct sun, take umbrellas if need be.
Apart from that, while out in the sun, make sure to apply and reapply sunscreen. Do not expose your baby's head directly to the sun, and instead use hats with wide brims. If your kids are not comfortable with hats, carry an umbrella. Also, make sure that they drink enough water especially when outdoors. Most importantly, apply sunscreen even on rainy, cold or cloudy days.
Can the same sunscreen be used for babies, kids and adults?
You can use the same sunscreen for yourself that you use on your babies and kids. However, you cannot use sunscreens meant for adults, on your kids. This is because the ingredients in sunscreen for babies and kids are different from those in sunscreens meant for adults.
Sunscreen for children uses titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which are not absorbed by the skin, but instead forms a protective barrier against the sun’s rays. Sunscreens for adults contain more chemicals and finer particles of zinc oxide, which get absorbed into the skin. However, the sunscreen for babies and kids form a white layer on the skin. If you are okay with the white pasty look, you can use the same sunscreen for yourself too!
What are the things one should keep in mind when buying sunscreen?
When you are buying sunscreen for your kids, keep the following things in mind. Make sure that the formula used in the lotion is especially meant for children. Ensure that it is waterproof and contains hypoallergenic ingredients. Choose a broad spectrum label (UVA and UVB).
What is the process of applying sunscreen on kids? How often should you reapply if the kids are out in the sun for long?
Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before stepping out in the sun. Slather sunscreen on your kid’s body, liberally. Take some sunscreen on the palm of your hand and dot it all over the exposed areas of the body and spread evenly. Do not forget to apply on ears, neck, back of legs, and on feet and hands.
If your kids are constantly outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours. And know that the harmful sun rays can even penetrate windows and doors into indoor areas. So, yes, you may apply even when they are indoors.
Also, when you apply sunscreen on your child’s face, be careful of the amount that you put around the eyes. Make sure that you spread it thoroughly and carefully so that it does not get into her eyes.
Further, insect repellents are said to lower the effectiveness of sunscreens. Hence, avoid applying them both at the same time. However, if you have to apply both, use the sunscreen first, followed by the insect repellent cream.
Should kids apply sunscreen before getting into the water?
Yes, most definitely. However, if your child is getting into the water, it is better to use water-resistant sunscreen on them. This sunscreen also needs to be reapplied every time your kid comes out of the water. Reapply sunscreen, even if your little one has been in the water for around eight minutes.
Why are organic sunscreens better than regular ones?
Some of the chemicals used in non-organic sunscreens can damage your skin almost as much as the sun itself. Hence, it is recommended to use organic sunscreen lotions to protect your skin from the sun and chemical damage. These sunscreens contain vitamins, soothing herbs, minerals like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and plant proteins that help in healing the skin and keeping it supple. Organic sunscreens do not contain water and therefore they tend to last long.
What are the benefits of organic sunscreen?
These are the major benefits of organic sunscreens:
No toxins: There are no parabens and fragrances (made from chemical) in organic sunscreens. Parabens mimic the hormone estrogen and when absorbed by the body, they can disturb the hormonal balance. Similarly, chemical fragrances are known to imbalance the hormones in the body.
Instant protection: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in organic sunscreen are minerals that mirror the sun's rays and therefore, you don’t have to wait for it to be absorbed into the skin. It acts like a protective layer.
Safe for the environment: It does not harm the environment, as no chemical residue is left behind.
Safe for kids: The lotion or cream is safe to use on kids as they block the harmful rays of the sun and do not irritate the skin at all.
So, now who is afraid to go outdoors, rain or shine, apply a layer of organic sunscreen and play with your child to your heart’s content!
Dr Rinky Kapoor is a cosmetic dermatologist and dermatosurgeon, at the Aesthetic Clinics.
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