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What's the healthiest sunscreen for my baby?

The question

I have a 10-month-old daughter. I am wondering what your suggestion is for a natural, or organic sunscreen for babies? I have searched a few reputable sites, and have a few products in mind. However, I would like your opinion. It is my plan to keep her out of the sun as much as possible this summer, but would still like a sunscreen option.

The answer

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Your plan to limit sunshine for a 10-month-old girl is wise: sunburn can happen rapidly at this age. Ten to 15 minutes of sunshine per day will provide her with all the Vitamin D she will need. If possible, avoid direct sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the ultra violet rays in summer are the most intense.

Canadian dermatologists suggest that consumers look for bottles or packaging bearing the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) logo. The logo indicates that the product has been reviewed by the CDA as part of the CDA's Sun Protection Program.

There is limited information on the benefits of organic sunscreens over traditional sunscreens. Theoretically, there are fewer chemicals in organic sunscreens. Organic sunscreens are used in combination, because no single organic sunscreen agent used at levels allowed can provide a high sun protection factor.

Inorganic sunscreens reduce the intensity of ultraviolet radiation in the epidermis of the skin, and contain chemicals such as PABA (Para-aminobenzoic acid) which absorb the ultra violet radiation (UVR). Zinc oxide and titanium oxide reflect and scatter light. They work very well for patients with a sensitive skin. All of these chemical are safe for use, at any age.

Look at the sun protection factor (SPF) - 15 means that more than 92 per cent of UVR is filtered out; if the SPF is 30, then about 97 per cent of UVR is filtered out.

Some parents avoid all sunscreens and instead they use clothing that blocks UVR. They also use sunglasses to protect the eyes along with hats that protect a wider surface area than a baseball cap

The bottom line is that there are many products to choose from. For that reason I suggest you look for logos of the CDA, indicating they researched the product and approve it both for safety and efficacy.

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Send pediatrician Peter Nieman your questions at pediatrician@globeandmail.com. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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