Can My Infant Use Sunblock? How Does it Work?


Can my infant use sunblock? What should I know about the ingredients? Here are our tips and explanations to help you find out!


What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Sunscreen is usually a chemical-based mix that you rub into the skin. It absorbs harmful rays and turns them into harmless heat. Sunblock, on the other hand, can be an organic mix that you slather on top of the skin. As a physical barrier, it blocks the rays from reaching your skin.

can my infant use sunblock

Which one is right for infants? The name matters less than the list of ingredients. In fact, most manufacturers switch between “sunscreen” and “sunblock.” 

So how do you know if your infant can use sunblock?

Navigating infant sunscreen ingredients

  • In the label, look for the words “physical” or “organic.” This means the content is not part of the chemical sunscreens. 
  • Look for either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These active ingredients block harmful sun rays, and they sit on your baby’s skin without being absorbed. Those with sensitive skin also use sunblock with these minerals because they are hypoallergenic. 
  • Look for the words “broad spectrum sunscreen,” or just “broad spectrum.” This means your sunscreen protects your baby’s skin from UVA and UVB rays, both of which are harmful.
  • Look for anything between SPF 30 to 50. The SPF, or sun protection factor, tells you how well the sunscreen will protect your baby’s skin. Anything less than SPF 30 is not as effective. 
  • You will want to find water resistant sunscreen, so it doesn’t get washed off. You will still need to reapply it, even if it is water-resistant, because it can get rubbed off. 
  • You don’t want sunscreen with insect-repellant. This lowers the effectiveness of the sunscreen. You can use a spray after putting sunscreen on your baby.

Can my infant use sunblock?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants should not be exposed to direct sunlight if they are younger than 6 months. If you are going out with your infant, it’s better to keep them in complete shade until they are 6 months old.

Why should your baby stay out of the sun? The main danger is dehydration, not skin cancer. Babies don’t have the same cooling and sweating capacity as older children and grownups do. They dehydrate quickly, and need milk or formula to stay hydrated.

On the other hand, why should your baby not use sunscreen under 6 months old? Their skin is more sensitive and prone to absorbing outside elements and harmful chemicals. Even if you use mineral sunscreens, your baby might absorb more through their skin than is healthy for them.

What if you cannot avoid direct sunlight? It is okay to use a minimal amount of sunscreen on the exposed skin, like the face, the back of the neck, the back of the hands, and the tops of the feet. We will talk about protective clothing in a bit. 

Tips for applying sunblock

  • Test the sunscreen first! Even with all the correct ingredients, your baby might react to certain sunscreens. At least a week before your outing, dab a small amount sunscreen on a small area of your baby’s skin. 
  • Apply sunscreen generously. The more, the better! Since it just sits on top of the skin and is meant to block UVA and UVB rays from reaching it, it’s okay even if it’s a bit obvious on the exposed areas of the skin.
  • Apply sunscreen every 2-3 hours. Even water-resistant sunscreen will get rubbed or washed off over time. After two hours, make sure you renew the sunscreen on your baby’s skin.
  • Put sunscreen 30 minutes before going into the sun. Sunscreen generally takes around 30 minutes before it is effective. 

Other tips for enjoying the sun with your infant

  • Stay in the shade from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. This is when the ultraviolet radiation of the sun is highest. Even with sunscreen, the UVA and UVB rays may damage your baby’s skin. 
  • Use a parasol or umbrella rather than a towel or blanket. If you’re creating a makeshift shade for your stroller, opt for a parasol or umbrella. A towel or blanket can be stuffy and suffocating. A parasol or umbrella allows the free flow of air to your baby.
  • Keep the baby hydrated with milk, formula, or water. Babies dehydrate faster than grownups, so watch your baby for signs of dehydration. Fussiness and dry lips are one indicator. Make sure you always have milk, formula, or water with you that they can sip at. 
  • Dress for the sun! If your baby is younger than 6 months old, or if you would rather use less sunscreen, you can dress them for the sun instead. A broad-brimmed had will protect their faces and the backs of their necks. light, tight-weave clothes will offer ample protection from the sun’s UV rays. Long sleeves and long pant legs will keep as little of the skin exposed as possible. 

Preparing to take your newborn out into the sun can be an anxious time, with a lot of advance planning and preparation. But as long as you know how to answer the question, “can my infant use sunblock?” this part should be stress-free. 

You can find out more tips on our blog!