Even the most careful of moms often fall short when it comes to sun safety for kids.
Between misplacing sunglasses and checking expired sunscreens, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However the issue of sun safety for kids is so important.
Ultraviolet (UV) light can cause severe damage to your body. Some of these changes (like wrinkling) can be merely cosmetic. Other damage such as cancer, sunburn, and cataracts are more serious.
The reality is that of the total sun damage your child’s body will receive in their lifetime, the majority of it occurs before they turn 18. UV protection can’t wait. Start teaching your children now with these important facts about sun safety for kids.
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In This Guide:
The Importance of Sun Safety for Kids
When the sun radiates down to earth, we get a lot more than just visible sunlight. With those rays comes invisible UV rays that can damage and burn the skin.
When the UV light reaches you, it reacts with the melanin in your skin. The more melanin your skin contains, the more protected you are against UV damage. When the amount of UV exposure exceeds the amount of protection melanin provides you, sunburn and damage occurs.
Did you know that even just a few sunburns can increase your child’s risk for developing skin cancer later in life? Therefore teaching sun safety for kids sets them up for a healthy lifestyle.
Kids Sun Safety Tips
Kids love spending time outdoors, but make sure they are doing it safely and protecting themselves from the sun’s harmful rays.
Sun safety for kids should be practiced every time you go outdoors – not just for vacations, beaches, and pools.
Infant Tips (Under 6 Months Old)
Baby sunscreen safety tell us that infants under the age of 6 months should not use sunscreen. For this reason, avoiding direct midday sunlight is the only safe option.
Remember to check for UV protection in baby’s clothing, sunglasses, hats, umbrella, and coverings. Just because an area is shaded doesn’t mean that UV light rays aren’t reaching your baby.
Make sure that baby is dressed in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Do not place a blanket directly over baby’s face for sun protection. Additionally, do not place blankets over the carseat as they can trap heat and cause baby’s temperature to reach dangerous levels.
Child and Toddler Sun Exposure Tips
Even though sunscreen can be safety used on children, the first line of defense should be avoiding the sun through coverings and shade. Clothing, hats, and sunglasses are all necessary items for proper sun safety for kids (more about specific ones later).
Before using a new sunscreen, be sure to test it on your child. Apply a small amount to the inside of their wrist the day before you plan to use it. Do not use the sunscreen if any irritation or rash develops.
Remember that your children are constantly watching and imitating you. Therefore it is imperative you be a good role model by wearing sunglasses/hats and applying sunscreen on a regular basis. It’s a win-win, you’ll protect your own skin and teach your child the importance of sun safety.
More Sun Safety for Kids Facts
- The sun’s peak intensity hours are between 10 am and 3 pm.
- The intensity of the sun also varies with the time of year, your location, and altitude. The closer you are to the equator and the higher the altitude, the more intense the sun’s rays.
- Some medications can make your skin more sensitive to UV rays, even over-the-counter ones. Be sure to carefully read all labels and ask your doctor if you have any questions.
- UV rays can reflect off of sand, water, concrete and other ground surfaces.
- Sunshine comes through even on cloudy and overcast days.
- Sunscreen often takes 30 minutes to become fully effective and should be reapplied every 2 hours (sooner if swimming or sweating).
- The most commonly missed areas for sunscreen are the ears, nose, and back of the knees.
- You can check the UV index every morning before you leave the house to assess the risk of sun damage by entering your zip code in online. The higher the UV index, the more important sun safety is for kids.
The Best Sunscreen for Children
In 2019, once again the absolute best sunscreen for children is…. Thinkbaby Sunscreen.
Don’t let the name fool you, it isn’t just for babies. We use it for our entire family.
Most sunscreens have tons of chemicals in them that can be dangerous for both humans and the environment (especially coral reefs). However many of the “natural” sunscreens aren’t effective.
Thankfully we have Thinkbaby, which is the perfect mix of both worlds – safety AND effectiveness. Thinkbaby is mineral-based (so not harmful to the coral reefs) and doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals (it’s the #1 rated, top choice sunscreen by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and has been since 2010). Most importantly, it works great and my children have never been sunburned when using it.
Pro-Mom Tip: This year one of our VIP members (hi, Sandy!) told me about the handy EWG app. Scan any barcode for personal care products (cosmetics, lotion, sunscreen, etc) while shopping and see the EWG’s safety rating. How helpful!
Essential Sun Protection Finds
Remember that sun safety for kids doesn’t stop with sunscreen! In fact, a much better alternative to sunscreen is to sport the right UV-protective gear.
Sun Protective Clothing for Toddlers
In my opinion, the undisputed gold-standard for children’s sun protection clothing is the Coolibar brand.
On sunny days, many moms turn to light long-sleeved shirts for sun safety for kids. However, if the material itself doesn’t provide UV protection, you might be doing more harm than wearing a t-shirt and applying sunscreen.
All Coolibar shirts have UPF 50+ protection so they block out an average of 98% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. They offer a wide range of products from “everyday” shirts to surf shirts designed for the water.
Check out their wide array of products on the Coolibar Collection on Amazon.
But don’t forget your own UV protection – mama needs to watch her skin too!
I absolutely adore the Coolibar Women’s Everyday Beach Shawl. I throw it over anything I’m wearing to protect myself from the sun’s harmful rays if I know I’m going to be outside in the middle of the day (walks, beach, pool days, gardening, etc).
There is a clear winner in the ‘best sun hats for kids’ category – the Sunday Afternoons Kids Play Hat.
- Very wide, semi-rigid front brim for maximum sun protection
- Fabric neck veil that slopes down to protect the back of the neck (and allows children to easily sit in a stroller without pushing the hat forward)
- UPF 50+ certified sun rating
- The material is light (and even has mesh vent areas) so children wont overheat – plus it’s water and stain resistant.
- There are straps to tighten them under the chin AND around the crown of the head so it won’t be blown off in the wind (but it also has smartstrap breakaway technology for safety).
UV protection for the eyes is equally as important and sunscreen for the skin. The vast majority (think ~80%) of ocular sun damage that one will accumulate throughout their entire life occurs before children reach their 18th birthday. So teaching the habit of wearing sunglasses from an early age is essential.
Babies are notorious for getting fussy and removing sunglasses, for this reason I highly recommend the Julbo brand of sunglasses.
That’s my 5 month-old modeling her Julbo Looping 1 sunglasses.
Julbo Looping sunglasses contour around the child’s head for maximum comfort and stability. They even come with a strap so you can keep them in place and, of course, provide 100% UV protection.
For older children I especially love Bib-On sunglasses.
As an added bonus, a portion of their proceeds are donated to the United Way charity. No wonder the Bib-On Vintage Kids Sunglasses are an Amazon Best Seller!
Rash guards are the most appropriate bathing suit option when considering sun safety for kids.
Every major brand (carter’s, hanna andersson, old navy, etc) carries rash guard bathing suit options. Just double check that the material has a certified UPF rating before purchasing.
RuffleButts is a great company – founded by a woman who was inspired after watching an inspirational episode of Oprah. Their goal is to provide high-quality and affordable products that inspire joy.
And I personally can attest to that, they have adorable products that are very reasonably priced. But my favorite thing? All of their bathing suits are UPF 50+.
Child and Toddler Sunburn Relief
Sometimes it just happens. Despite you best effort to follow our sun safety tips, your child gets sunburned. So now what do you do?
Sunburn Signs and Symptoms
First off, it’s important to remember that the pain associated with sunburn usually occurs a few hours after the sun exposure. You can’t rely on immediate symptoms alone when outside with your child to gauge if they’ve had too much sun.
Symptoms of sunburn can also range from burning/hot sensation to feeling chills. The skin may be sensitive, painful to the touch, itchy, and/or feel dry and tight.
If your child suffers a severe sunburn with blistering, call your primary care doctor for instruction.
Treatment and Tips for Toddler Sunburn Relief:
- Fill a bath with cool (but not cold) water. If they like, they can also use a soft washcloth to apply cool, wet compresses directly to the affected skin a few times per day
- Apply 100% aloe vera gel directly to hot-feeling, sunburned areas
- Give either children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce both pain and inflammation
- Encourage child to drink extra liquids for a few days after burning
- Use gentle lotions and moisturizing creams to revive dry skin and treat itching
- For more serious burns for toddlers over 2 years old, you can apply a small amount of 1% hydrocortisone cream to help with pain and inflammation. It’s important to avoid most ointments as they contain petroleum and can prevent the heat from escaping
- Avoids products containing benzocaine or lidocaine for pain as they can further irritate sunburn
- When the sunburn starts to peel about a week after the burn, instruct your child not to scratch or peel off the loose pieces of skin
- Avoid all sun exposure until the skin is completely healed.