Sunkissed: summer skin protection for babies and toddlers

New parents face many questions about caring for their kids, and it’s no different when it comes to sun safety. New Zealand has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world, so it's important to be sun-safe. We’ve put together a list of handy hints from the Cancer Society of New Zealand on protecting your little ones from the sun's harmful rays.

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What's in our sunscreen and should we be worried?

Is sunscreen safe for babies?

Babies younger than one year old should be kept out of direct sunlight altogether. Never rely on sunscreen to keep your baby safe. Their skin isn’t thick like ours, so it can burn in just a couple of minutes and they can get sun damage from only a small amount of UV radiation.

Even if you're only going to the local playground for an hour, your child needs sunscreen and a hat, and you should be careful to protect them from too much sun.

The Cancer Society especially recommends keeping infants out of the sun as much as possible from September to April, between 10 am and 4 pm, as this is the highest Sun Protection Alert period.

However, when you need to take your baby outside, you can apply an SPF30+ or higher broad spectrum sunscreen on any areas of skin not covered by clothing. Put it on at least 20 minutes before taking them outside, and reapply it every two hours.

If you're carrying baby in a frontpack, consider using a large muslin cloth or wrap, tucked in at the top of the frontpack and left loose at the bottom, to cover their arms and legs. (Apply sunscreen to your baby as well).

Make sure that the sunscreen is water resistant if your baby or toddler is playing in water, and reapply if every hour or more to prevent the sunscreen getting washed off.

As with any other skin products, stop using the sunscreen immediately if your little one comes up in a rash or shows other signs of skin irritation. Many brands have a gentler version specifically designed for babies or toddlers.

You can also reduce their exposure to UV radiation by adding these protective measures to the sunscreen:

  • Plan the day so you can spend as much time as possible in the shade or inside.
  • Choose a shady play area.
  • Cover as much of their skin as possible with loose-fitting clothes or wraps with opaque fabric, where there are no holes or transparent parts for the sun to sneak through.
  • Put a broad-brimmed or legionnaire-style hat on your little one so that their face, neck and ears are all protected. Watch that hat like a hawk! Not many kids like keeping a hat on their head.
  • Put the pram or stroller in the shade or drape a cover over it, made from material that casts a dark shadow and protects the infant from UV light. Make sure that the cover material is not so shiny that the light actually reflects in on your child’s face.
  • Protect your child’s skin even on cloudy or wintry days. UV radiation cannot be felt, so just because it’s a cold day, it desn't mean that your child’s skin is safe. UV radiation can penetrate clouds and the shade of trees or shade cloths. It can also be reflected up off the ground, especially around water, sand, snow or concrete.



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