Images of children running on the beach, splashing in little pools and frolicking naked in the grass drum up nostalgic memories for us all; however, as an image of health, it is misleading. Most sun damage done to the skin will occur before your baby is 18 years old. Shielding your child from sunburn is essential for preventing ultra-violet induced skin complications such as melanoma and hyperpigmentation and for keeping baby skin ageless.
In the first months of life, your baby’s skin is not fully developed and the system produces very little melanin, the natural substance that prevents sun damage to the skin, as well as DNA destruction. Doctors recommend minimal sun exposure until at least 6 months of age. After 6 months, a zinc or titanium based product with SPF 35 should be used all over the body, even under clothing, for outdoor activity. Lip protection is especially important to apply, and reapply often, as much of it is quickly wiped off or ingested. Keep in mind that dry or damaged skin, as you might see with eczema, should be regularly protected with an SPF of 6 or more.
As always, steer clear of synthetic chemicals with mysterious names like octinoxate. Synthetic chemical sunscreens are absorbed by the skin and should be avoided by everyone, especially babies. Not only do these chemicals force the baby’s organs to work extra hard to eliminate them, many of them mimic estrogens (xenoestrogens) and may cause hormonal developmental problems in young children. Instead, opt for a block that uses surface floating minerals (zinc or titanium) as opposed to those absorbed by the skin. Remember to reapply more than usual if naps, swimming, snacks, or a tickle session deplete the amount of product you originally applied.