Beauty editor and new mom, Marina Klimasiewfski, chats with Dr. Elizabeth Hale who shares with us some tips on how to navigate your baby’s first summer…
DISCLAIMER: This article is not offering medical advice. Before making a purchase, please consult with your pediatrician about which sunscreen is right for you and your family.
After several months of wondering if my baby was wearing enough layers (for our very first outing I dressed him in a onesie, a footie, a sweater and a hat then basically sprinted the 10 steps from the car to the pediatrician’s door), the exceptionally hot Memorial Day weekend alerted me to new dangers I hadn’t even considered for my young one. How do babies plus sun, sand, and sea mix?! Turns out there is a whole world (and market!) of sunscreens and sun protective clothing to help manage just that concern. I interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Hale, Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology at New York University School of Medicine, mom of three kids, avid marathoner, and consultant to Coppertone to find out what the experts tell their patients/parents for navigating baby’s first summer.
1. What should parents look for in sunscreens for infants?
Dr. Hale: “Keep in mind that newborns (anywhere up to six months) should not be in the direct sunlight and therefore should not be wearing sunscreen. After that age, a mild and non-irritating lotion can be applied that provides broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays such as Coppertone Water BABIES SPF 70. The formula contains Vitamin E to moisturize the baby’s skin and is also hypoallergenic. There’s also Coppertone Water BABIES Pure + Simple, which contains an even gentler zinc oxide formula.”
2. How long is too long for an infant to be in the sun?
Dr. Hale: “For an infant, any amount of unprotected sun is too much. They should always be in the shade, with a hat and umbrella!”
3. What should parents do to protect their children’s scalp from sun exposure?
Dr. Hale advises doubling up on scalp protection, “On top of putting a hat on, parents should also keep in mind that sunscreen is important on the scalp as well. For babies, a regular sunscreen lotion can be rubbed on the scalp to prevent burning; for children, try an easy-application spray such as Coppertone Kids Continuous Spray.”
4. Many parents are eager for their child’s first beach day. How old does a child need to be before they can go in salt water? How about a chlorinated pool?
Dr. Hale: “Over six months old is the best age since infants don’t have strong immune systems quite yet. For chlorine, six months is key as well but keep in mind that chlorine pools are filled with chemicals that may irritate a child’s skin.”
5. Any other summer skincare tips for parents that you can offer?
Dr. Hale: “Don’t forget to take advantage of other sun protection options such as long-sleeved shirts and umbrellas. Babies’ skin is incredibly vulnerable due to the fact that it’s brand new, so it’s important to also replenish it after being exposed to sunlight and chemicals from the pool.”
For good measure I asked prominent Upper Westside Family Physician Dr. Jeremy Stoepker to share any additional thoughts on babies and sun. He echoed Dr. Hale’s sentiments that younger babies should be kept out the sun. Once a baby is 3-6 months he recommends a physical, rather than chemical, barrier, such as one containing zinc oxide. Finally, he notes the best resource for parents looking to see where sunscreens stand in terms of ingredient safety is the environmental working group website (ewg.org), which ranks various sunscreens annually.
After these chats I’ve successfully filled another Amazon cart with items I previously had no idea I needed. Having a baby will do that to you, it seems. Happy Summer!