June 26, 2020
We’re officially into summer—which means we’re officially deep into sunscreen season. (You should wear sunscreen year-round, but you should especially pay attention right now, when it’s too easy to sweat off the first layer.) But it’s not just adults who need to be worried about sun protection. Babies, even newborns, need to be protected from sun exposure on a daily basis. These days, we understand how important it feels for so many of us to get outside every day. It’s not only a great way to get some exercise, but also a reprieve from the four walls of our home. And we can enjoy the great outdoors with our babies, too, if we learn the facts about sun protection for the youngest members of our family.
We spoke with one of our Evereden Doctor Moms and Pediatric Dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Sarina Elmariah, MD, PhD, to help bust the myths about sunscreen for babies. By getting the facts straight, we can help protect our children’s skin for the long term.
Myth: We only need to wear sunscreen when we are outdoors.
“This is a tricky one, because it depends on your surroundings,” Dr. Elmariah says. “The sun can affect you wherever you are exposed—outside (both UVA and UVB rays) or through glass windows in your home, car, or office (mostly UVA rays, because most glass blocks UVB only).” In other words, if you’re sitting by the window, you should wear sunscreen.
Myth: Applying sunscreen once a day is enough.
“Sunscreen provides a temporary blockade from harmful UV rays,” Dr. Elmariah says. You should reapply every two hours for continuous coverage. If you will be exposed to the sun for extended periods, either cover up with clothing or slather on the sunscreen every two hours.
Myth: You can stay out for longer in the sun by wearing higher SPF.
SPF stands for Sun Protective Factor. “This is a number which reflects how long it would take your skin to become red wearing sunscreen, compared to how long it would take if you don’t wear sunscreen,” Dr. Elmariah says. For example, SPF 30 blocks about 97 percent of UVB rays, and would take your skin 30 times longer to become red than without sunscreen. But you shouldn’t use sunscreen as an excuse to stay out too long, as the goal is the avoid becoming red in the first place. The redness, Dr. Elmariah notes, is a sign of significant UV damage. As long as you choose the right SPF for your skin, you should be able to remain in the sun for less than two hours.
Fact: Sunscreen decreases your intake of Vitamin D from the sun.
“UVB is required for your keratinocytes—a type of skin cell—to produce a form of vitamin D, called vitamin D3, that is necessary to keep your bones strong and healthy,” Dr. Elmariah says. “By blocking UV penetration, sunscreens actually do decrease your body’s ability to make the vitamin.” But you can get vitamin D from nutrition, by eating foods like salmon, tuna, mackerel, egg yolks, and beef liver. Cereals, milk, and some juices are also commonly fortified with vitamin D. “If your baby is old enough to drink vitamin D-fortified milk or if they take a vitamin D supplement solution, this is usually enough to ensure strong bones,” Dr. Elmariah advises. “Given the downsides of UV exposure—sun damaged skin and skin cancer—dietary vitamin D is the way to go!”
Myth: Physical sunscreens don’t protect as well as chemical sunscreens.
“Mineral sunscreens actually last longer than chemical sunscreens when in direct UV light except when wet, and also protect from the sun as soon as it’s applied, no need to wait like with chemical sunscreens!” Dr. Elmariah says. This is because the minerals sit directly on top of the skin to physically reflect the sun’s rays before they can penetrate the skin.
Myth: As long as sunscreen is made with Zinc Oxide, we have nothing to worry about!
“Be sure to carefully read the label of your sunscreens,” Dr. Elmariah warns. “Many claim to be mineral-based with Zinc but also include chemical blockers, such as Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, and Avobenzone, which are known hormone disruptors!”
Fact: Newborn babies need sun protection.
“Sun protection is an absolute must for newborns, but if possible, do not use sunscreen!” Dr. Elmariah advises. Instead, you should seek shade and dress your baby in sun-protective but lightweight clothing, like linens or light cottons. Once your baby is six months old, their skin is slightly less delicate and can tolerate mineral-based sunscreen lotion. We all know that sometimes the sun can’t be avoided though, so “If you absolutely must use a sunscreen for days when sun cannot be avoided, try a mineral based sunscreen that uses non-nano titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.”, says Dr. Elmariah. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends a 100 percent mineral-based sunscreen to keep young babies protected.
Ready to have fun under the sun with the entire family? Shop our 100 percent mineral-based Zinc Oxide SPF 30 Sunscreen, with green tea and rosehip antioxidants to soothe.
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