When can I start applying sunscreen to my infant?

Reviewed by Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, Board Certified Pediatrician

Your first summer as a parent can be a challenging time. The type of sunscreen you use on your child can be a daunting task, but should you use it at all on newborns?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Health Canada recommend that parents and caregivers take every possible step to keep babies out of the sun. Limit sunscreen usage until your child is six months old. In the mean time, here’s some basic tips for dressing your baby to go outside:

Dress your newborn in lightweight, long sleeves and long pants.
Baseball caps might be cute, but they don’t work well to shield your baby’s face. Choose a wide-brimmed hat instead.
Sunglasses need to block both UVA and UVB rays.
Seek out shade during hottest part of the afternoon.
On sunny days, the hours between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most dangerous, but sunrays can also be intense on cloudy days.
Baby oil is not protective.
Keep your baby constantly hydrated.
After six months, parents can use sunscreen liberally.
If you need to use a little sunscreen, apply it first to your baby’s wrist to see if they have any reactions. Children who show any signs of sunburn should be taken inside immediately, and cold compresses should be applied to the affected areas.

Limit sunscreen usage until your baby is six months old.
Use lightweight clothes and long pants.
Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Keep your baby constantly hydrated while outside.

Last reviewed by Kristie Rivers, MD, FAAP. Review Date: June 2021

Many sunscreen bottles tell you not to use the product on babies under 6 months, since their skin is so thin and delicate. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, says it’s okay to put a little sunscreen on your infant if you have to. Before you slather it on, though, there’s a few things you’ll want to consider.

Stay Out Of Direct And Indirect Sunlight
Because of the risk of sunburn and heatstroke, the AAP says babies younger than 6 months should avoid both direct and indirect sunlight between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But that doesn’t mean you have to stay inside.

Shade is your friend, whether it’s a stroller canopy, umbrella or tree

Create coverage with clothing, opting for lightweight long sleeve shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats

Look for clothes with sun protection, like an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) or UVA/UVB protection

Use Sunscreen On Infants When Sun Is Unavoidable
Catching a few rays is inevitable. In these situations, apply small amounts of sunscreen to any exposed areas, like baby’s face, hands, neck and ears.

Test sunscreen on a small section of baby’s skin and watch for a reaction if you’re trying it for the first time

Apply 15 to 30 minutes before going outside

Reapply every one and a half to two hours

Zinc oxide-based sunscreen is the preferable type of sun block for babies. Zinc is a mineral blocker that works by sitting on top of the skin to form a protective barrier against the sun, rather than seeping into pores

Use SPF 15 or greater, but keep in mind there’s not enough research to prove any SPF above 50 actually offers greater protection

Don’t make the common mistake of missing the area around the eyes