The Food and Drug Administration sent out an email recently with this subject line: “Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually.”
That surprised me. I thought we were supposed to slather sunscreen on every inch of everyone’s skin, no matter how old or young.
But it turns out that the FDA advises caregivers to use sunscreen as a last resort, and then quite sparingly, on babies younger than 6 months. Instead, protect infants by keeping them in the shade and covering their skin with clothing and brimmed hats.
The FDA’s consumer update notes that because babies’ skin is thinner and more permeable than that of older kids and adults, and because their skin-to-body-weight ratio is greater than that of older people, they’re more likely to absorb sunscreen ingredients and suffer allergic or inflammatory reactions to them.
If you feel that you must apply sunscreen to your baby, the agency suggests using small amounts (using a product with an SPF of 15 or higher) and only “to small areas such as the cheeks and back of the hands.”