How to protect baby skin during summer

Everyone wishes they had baby skin. It feels so soft and smooth; it’s perfectly adapted to induce us adults to want to clean their diaper, no matter how many times they dirty them. Like their big eyes and cute noses, baby skin it part of the whole package of being adorable. But like their eyes, their skin, however beautiful, is immature. Baby skin is thinner, has less natural moisturizers and has fewer pigment cells, making it more vulnerable to the environment than adult skin.

This is important especially in summer. How often do you see babies running around on the beach with just a diaper on? Although they seem indestructable, they are more vulnerable than the adult holding the pail and shovel.

Studies have shown that up to 83% of babies get sunburned their first year of life. This is our fault, not theirs. Sunburns at an early age can increase the risk for melanoma skin cancer on the trunk later in life. Sun exposure is also a poor way to get vitamin D for infants because most will get far more damaging sun than they need to make vitamin D — we adults tend to over cook them.

Here are five tips to keep your baby safe during summer:

1. Newborns up to 6 months should be kept out of the sun. Cover them up with light clothing and hats, and put the top down on the stroller.

2. Babies 6 months and older should not be exposed to the sun between 10am and 2pm. When they are outdoors, they should have sunscreen on all exposed skin. Because their immature skin can absorb chemicals more easily, choose sunscreens with zinc and titanium with an SPF of 30 or more. Chemical or spray sunscreens can burn their eyes which will be sure to make for a cranky baby at the beach.

3. Be sure to apply the sunscreen near their hairline, on their ears and at the edges of clothing — areas often missed by well meaning moms.

4. Choose sunscreens that are white or opaque; it’s easier to see where you’ve applied the sunscreen, and he’ll look cute anyway.

5. Be sure your baby is getting 400 IU of vitamin D everyday, then she won’t need any sun for her vitamin D.

Jeff Benabio is a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. He blogs at The Derm Blog and can be found @Dermdoc on Twitter.

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