Pediatric Dermatology: Start Young

Skin damage is cumulative and we at the Total Skin Center want to make sure you prevent skin damage. The skin has a “memory” for past sun exposure. Small amounts of exposure to UV light combine to cause harm to the skin. This can stem from either sunburn or suntan only. The damage once done can never be repaired. Since baby and toddler skin is more vulnerable than adult skin to damage from UV light and harm is cumulative, it is so important to make sun protection a routine from the earliest part of childhood onward.

Keep babies and children in the shade and appropriately dressed, and use sunscreen regularly. Therefore, sensible precautions include:

  • Wear a wide brimmed hat with or without “legionnaire” flap in back
  • Wear a shirt with collar and sleeve
  • Use a broad spectrum (blocks both UVB UVA) sunscreen SPF 30 or greater on all areas of sun exposed skin, and reapply regularly.

Sun protection for the entire family

Parents are the example for good, life-long habits.

  • Avoid the sun between 10 AM-4 PM, when UV rays are strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing including hat, shirt with collar and sleeves. This even in the shade, as UV light from the sun can penetrate through clouds.
  • Try and keep the baby out of direct sunlight if possible. You can use a drape to create shade over baby’s stroller or play area.
  • Wear sunglasses with at least 99% UV protection.
  • Obtain Vitamin D from dietary sources and vitamin supplements.

Kids with sensitive skin may react to the most carefully created sunscreen. If a child reacts to one sunscreen then try another. There are sunscreens marketed just for kids and toddlers. If your child still experiences problems with sunscreens, seek medical advice.

Organic sunscreens (chemical sunscreens) absorb UV light, and prevent it from getting to the skin. Inorganic sunscreens (physical sunscreens) work by reflecting UV light away from the skin. Inorganic sunscreens are less likely to cause problems with skin irritation.

Infants, Toddlers and Sunscreens

For Babies younger than 6 months

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands, if protective clothing and shade are not available.

For Babies older than 6 months

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, apply to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes. If your baby rubs sunscreen into his/her eyes, wipe the eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth.

How to apply sunscreen

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Use enough sunscreen to cover all exposed areas, especially the face, nose and ears, feet and hands and even the backs of the knees. Rub it in well.

Put sunscreen on 30 minutes before going outdoors. It needs time to absorb into the skin.

Use sunscreen any time you or your child might sunburn. Remember that you can get sunburn even on cloudy days. Also, UV rays can bounce back from water, sand, snow and concrete, so make sure you are protected.

Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Sunscreen wears off after swimming, sweating, or just from soaking into the skin.

Contact the Total Skin Center of the Kansas City area to learn more about how to protect your infant or toddler’s precious one skin.