I remember the days of visiting the beach with the whole family every summer. All of us kids would get dressed up in our bathing suits and swimmies, and the parents would form an assembly line of sunblock application. The babies would be wearing t-shirts and shorts so application was minimal, while the older kids received a head-to-toe slathering around their swimsuits and whined as they were forced to stay out of the water until it dried. 

Since then, more research about the danger of UV rays has surfaced, and we’ve all grown accustomed to safer sun enjoyment. New parents especially should be careful about their baby’s time in the sunshine, because studies show that most of our sun damage happens in the early years when our skin is more sensitive to the ultraviolet rays. As it turns out, your child’s clothes are not protecting him or her from the sun, and you need to apply sunscreen beneath them.

We usually assume that a light t-shirt is enough to block the sun’s powerful rays, but research shows that it is not. Before you spend time outside with your baby or toddler, lather his or her body with sunscreen prior to putting on the clothes. That way, the skin will be completely protected under the fabric. This will prevent painful sunburn, and it will also minimize sun damage and the risk for cancer later in life. An infant with sunburn is never a good thing, so taking any measures you can to prevent that situation is highly recommended.

Though you might long for the days when you and your friends used to run out the door in the morning straight into the sunshine without a care in the world, your concern for your baby’s health should override any frustration you have with the inconvenience of consistent sunblock application.

Starting safe sun habits now when your baby is young will leave him better off for the rest of his life. Don’t assume that t-shirt will serve as sun protection. Of course, you don’t need to apply sunscreen in the winter when your baby is bundled up in a coat and snow boots, as the layers will be protection enough. Use your best judgment on days when you’ll be outside for a while and it might be warm enough to remove some layers, as those are the days when the sunburn will strike.

Source: Margaret B Planta: Sunscreen and Melanoma: Is Our Prevention Message Correct? Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine Volume 24 Issue 6 pp. 735-739 December 2011