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Dr. Sally Sherriff L.Ac., DAOM

Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Healing in Santa Cruz, CA

Sunshine and sunscreen safety

Should you put sunscreen on children?
Not usually! 

You’re at the beach with your 5-month-old baby. Should you put sunscreen on her? Not usually, according to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

What makes babies so vulnerable?

For one thing, babies’ skin is much thinner than that of adults, and it absorbs the active, chemical ingredients in sunscreen more easily. For another, infants have a high surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children & adults. Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens is much greater, increasing the risk of toxic reaction or inflammation.

Be aware of the toxicity of some sunscreen ingredients.

The FDA says there isn’t enough data to determine whether ingredients are safe and in particular, raised concerns about oxybenzone, its potential to affect hormone levels and the increased absorption susceptibility of children (FDA 2019). In lab studies, it is a weak estrogen and has potent anti-androgenic effects (Krause 2012, Ghazipura 2017). According to the agency, “sunscreen ingredients” … (including oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone,) …”have limited or no data characterizing their absorption.” Drawing on the available literature, the agency also classified aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate as unsafe.

The Danish EPA reviewed the safety of  ingredients in sunscreen and concluded that most lacked enough information to establish their safety (Danish EPA 2015). In the case of 16 of the 19 ingredients studied, there was no information about their potential to cause cancer. The published studies suggest that several chemical filters interact with human sex or thyroid hormones, and there was not enough information about any of them to determine the potential risks to humans from hormone disruption. (

Sunscreen ingredients also affect animals and our environment

Sunscreen ingredients have also been shown to damage coral, accumulate in fish and the environment, and disrupt hormones in fish and amphibians (Buser 2006, Danovaro 2008, Giokas 2007, Kunz 2004, Kunz 2006, Weisbrod 2007).

Do babies need to be out in the sun at all?

Studies have found that 70 percent of breastfed one month old babies were deficient in vitamin D (Wagner 2010). This is a serious problem because vitamin D plays a key role in growth and development. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that Mexican Americans and African Americans are two to three times more likely than Caucasians to have low levels of vitamin D (CDC 2011). So we do want to make sure our babies get some sun exposure.

Summer’s heat presents other challenges for babies.

Younger infants don’t sweat like we do. Sweat naturally cools us down when we’re hot, but babies haven’t yet fully developed this natural cooling system. So we want to make sure our babies don’t get overheated.

In hot weather, babies are also at greater risk of becoming dehydrated. To make sure they’re adequately hydrated, offer them extra breast time, formula or water in between their usual feedings.

Sun Safety Tips 

– Keep your baby in the shade.
– Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin.
– Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade.
– Watch for warning signs of sunburn or dehydration such as fussiness, redness and excessive crying.
– Hydrate! Give your baby extra feedings or a small amount of water between feedings if you’re out in the sun.
– If your baby is urinating less than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration, give more fluids until the flow is back to normal.
– Avoid sunscreens, especially those containing possible toxic ingredients or the insect repellant DEET, particularly on our babies hands. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths.
– If you do notice your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply aloe vera to the affected areas.

Remember that we all need the healing rays of the sun, but we want to be sure to avoid sun burns!

For more information on holistic health for your baby and children, contact Dr. Sally at 831-295-6327. 320 River Street, Santa Cruz, California 95060

Click Here to Schedule Appointments 

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