Why does your baby need sun protection ?

Date Posted:21 December 2017 

Sun protection is important not only for adults but also baby.

Why your baby needs protecting

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Research suggests that two or more cases of severe sunburn at an early age can increase the risk of skin cancer later on. 
Cancer Council Australia recommends keeping babies out of the sun as much as possible for the first 12 months. UV rays are at their most harmful between 10am and 3pm. So, plan activities outside of the peak UV times, or follow some of the tips below when you are out and about particularly when the sun is at its strongest.

Protective clothing

Clothes are great protection from the sun. If you are out during peak UV times, it’s a good idea to cover as much of your baby’s skin as possible. Your baby’s neck and shoulders can get quickly burnt so make sure these areas in particular are covered. 

Loose-fitting clothes made of light, closely woven cotton are ideal for hot days.

Rashies block out more harmful UVA rays than a T-shirt can. They are usually used at the pool or beach. They're made of lycra or a lycra and nylon mix. They dry quickly and can be worn in and out of the water. They cover various parts of the body: Some are t-shirt shaped, leaving your baby’s arms exposed. Others cover the same area as a long sleeved t-shirt. You can even buy rashie suits that cover your baby’s whole body.


Look for a hat that protects your baby’s face, neck and ears. Hats with a wide brim all the way around, bucket hats, and legionnaire-style hats all do a pretty good job of this. 

Once your baby discovers his hands can do things, he is likely to knock his hat off. This behaviour is pretty common and usually stops sometime before your child turns two. Don’t worry, just plop his hat back on, and on again, and on again…


Sunglasses for children may seem a luxury, but they do protect eyes from the sun. Consider encouraging your baby to wear sunglasses from the age of six months. 

Look for sunglasses that meet Australian Standards. Those with an Eye Protection Factor rating close to 10 offer the best protection. 

Sunglasses with a rubber strap that fits comfortably around the back of your child's head are more likely to stay on. Plastic shatterproof glasses are probably also a good idea if you can find them.


Look for a broad spectrum, water resistant sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30+. Use sunscreen to cover small areas of skin that cannot be protected by clothing such as your baby’s face, ears, neck, hands and feet. 

To be effective, it’s best to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside, particularly during the heat of the day, and then every two hours afterwards. Sunscreen that's specially formulated for your baby's skin is probably best, because adult creams may cause irritation. Some companies make tinted sun creams, so that you can see if you've missed a bit.


Canopies and umbrellas for prams and strollers

A canopy tends to offer more protection than an umbrella, which needs adjusting as the sun moves around. Check that the canopy or umbrella fits onto your type of pram or stroller before you buy. If in doubt, find a version that will adjust to fit all models. Alternatively, choose an elasticated UV sun cover. These are made of dark, synthetic mesh and cover the whole seat area of the pram or stroller so your baby is totally protected.

Beach tents

Beach tents can screen out UV rays, and provide somewhere for your little one to sleep, eat his lunch or just take a break from the sun. Even on cool days they can be worthwhile because they act as fantastic windbreaks. 

Most pop up pretty easily and fold into a compact bag when not in use. They are usually made of lightweight materials. They come in baby or family sizes. Family-sized tents are pricier, but you'll get many more holidays out of them.  

Which sunscreens are best for babies and young children?

It's best to minimise the time babies and toddlers spend in the sun, and babies under one year should always be kept in the shade, especially between 10am and 3pm. It's important to remember that sunscreen should be the last line of defence against the sun, and shouldn't be used to extend the amount of time you would usually spend outdoors.

For toddlers, as well as older children and adults, think of these points:

  • stay in the shade between 10am and 3pm
  • make sure you never burn
  • always try and cover up as much of your baby's skin with clothes, a wide brimmed or Legionnaire's-type hat and sunglasses
  • remember to take extra care with children
  • then use a baby or toddler sunscreen with an SPF factor of 30+ for the areas that aren't covered

When sunscreen is required, you should look for a product labelled 'broad-spectrum' - this means that it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. We recommend you choose a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor, or SPF, of 30 or more. The SPF indicates the amount of protection against sunburn, which is caused mainly by UVB rays.

Choose a sunscreen specifically made for babies, toddlers or sensitive skin. These sunscreens are often made with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which reflect the UV away from the skin and are less likely to irritate your baby's skin.

If your child has eczema or sensitive skin, check the ingredients list for anything you know may irritate her skin or trigger an allergic reaction.

Before you use it for the first time, test any new sunscreen on a small area of skin before applying to any exposed areas. If she does develop a rash or redness at the test spot, choose a hypoallergenic formula instead. If there’s no reaction, put her usual eczema emollients or treatments on first, and then the sunscreen half an hour later.

There's not a great deal of extra protection to be gained by going for an SPF any higher than 30, although you can if you want to. This is because a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will provide 93% protection against the sun's burning rays, whereas a sunscreen with SPF 30 will provide 96% protection and SPF 60 will provide 98% protection - the higher SPF you go, the difference becomes smaller - double the SPF does not mean double the protection.

No sunscreen - no matter how high the factor - can offer 100 per cent protection against the sun. It's also important to realise that the way most people apply sunscreen means that they probably only get half the SPF stated: so make sure that you apply it liberally. Also, remember never to use sunscreen in order to spend longer in the sun - it should only be used to increase your protection.

Here are some points to bear in mind while using sunscreen:

  • Choose a sunscreen that is water resistant and check the "use by" date on the bottle.
  • Always apply the product 15 to 30 minutes before you go into the sun so your skin has time to absorb the product, and reapply once you get outside.
  • Apply the sunscreen to clean, dry skin and only rub or pat it in very lightly.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more frequently if washed, rubbed, or sweated off.
  • You don't need to use expensive brands - the cheaper brands are just as effective if they are used properly.


Babycenter (April 2011). “Buying Sun Protection”. Retrieved from https://www.babycenter.com.au/a561824/buying-sun-protection  

Catherine Harwood (April 2011). “Which sunscreens are best for babies and young children?”. Retrieved from https://www.babycenter.com.au/x561727/which-sunscreens-are-best-for-babies-and-young-children


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