The best thing about summer has to be bare baby arms and legs; unwrapped from their cocoon of cold weather layers and out on display, in all their delectable, marshmallow-y glory.
But while there’s no more need for woolly hats and puff-ball jackets, you’ve still got to keep those lil’ bods protected.
Here are the top tips for taking care of your babe’s skin this sunshine season:
• Choose a chemical-free sunscreen made with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
There’s no evidence that chemical sunscreens are toxic, but we don’t know enough yet about how young children react to the ingredients. Also, they may also cause irritation or allergic reactions because the skin absorbs the active ingredients.
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, on the other hand, sit on top of the skin, forming a barrier against the sun’s rays. And, unlike chemical products, which need to be applied 15-30 mins before sun exposure, sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide start protecting as soon as you put them on.
• Find an SPF of at least 15 and go for ‘broad-spectrum’
The key things you need to be looking for in a sunscreen are whether the product provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection, and whether it has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 to 30. You could go for a higher SPF, but most experts believe that these high SPF sunscreens don’t provide a significantly higher degree of protection.
It’s also a good idea to use a water-resistant sunscreen. Even if your kiddo isn’t going swimming, if he’s outside, he’s likely to sweat.
• If your baby is younger than 6 months, keep her out of direct sunlight
An infant’s skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives colour to skin and provides some sun protection. Babies are therefore especially susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects, and their skin is also too sensitive for sunscreen. If it’s not feasible to keep your little one completely out of the rays, use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide based sunscreen, and reapply every two hours — and more often if your baby is spending time in the water or perspiring.
• Use additional sun protection alongside the sunscreen
As tempting as it is to squeeze your cherub into itsy-bitsy bathing suits, opt for baby wet suits instead. They provide more coverage, and many brands are made with fabric that provides an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 to 50+. Don’t forget a hat (sunglasses aren’t imperative – if the hat is wide-brimmed – but they’re super-cute.)
And be sure to avoid or limit sun exposure when the sun is at its strongest, from about 10 a.m. to 4p.m.