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As an adult, you know how important it is to protect your skin from the potentially damaging rays of the sun. When it comes to babies' skin, it's even more important to protect them from possible sun damage.

"A baby's sensitive skin is more likely to get sunburned than adults," said Geisinger pediatric dermatologist Katherine Chilek Marks, DO. "Infant and toddler skin has less melanin, the brown pigment that helps protect the skin from ultraviolet light."

One blistering sunburn in childhood can more than double a person's chances of developing melanoma, according to The Skin Cancer Foundation.

Since a baby's skin is more susceptible to sunburns and can cause lasting damage, it's imperative to protect them from the sun. Here's how.

If possible, infants up to 6 months old should be kept out of the sun.

When you're outside with an infant, make sure they're dressed in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs.

"You should put a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet on your infant that protects his or her face, head, neck and ears," Dr. Marks said. "Plus, babies who wear hats during the first few months of their life will get used to wearing one and be less likely to fight wearing one as they get older."

The best time to go outside with your infant is in the morning before 10 a.m. or in the afternoon after 4 p.m. - the sun isn't as strong at those times.

"If you're taking your baby for a walk, use a stroller with a protective cover that will further shield them from the sun," Dr. Marks said.

Parents have traditionally been told that sunscreen use should be avoided in babies younger than 6 months. However, updated recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics state that when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to small areas, such as the infant's face and the back of the hands.

"Look for broad-spectrum sunscreen for your baby, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher," Dr. Marks said. Alternatively, sunscreens that use the ingredients zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, often labeled specifically for children, may cause less irritation to an infant or toddler's sensitive skin.

If you choose a spray sunscreen, don't apply it directly to your baby's face. Instead, spray it into your hands and then spread it on their face.

"Make sure to apply sunscreen to your baby's skin at least 15 minutes before going outside and then reapply it every two hours or after swimming or sweating," Dr. Marks said.

When it comes to toddlers, they also need a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher applied 15 minutes before going outside.

If you and your toddler are outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. seek out the shade- this is the time of day when the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, which cause sunburns and skin damage, are most intense.

In addition to sunscreen, keep your toddler's skin covered up with clothing too.

"Long-sleeved, unbleached cotton is highly protective from the sun while also keeping your toddler cool and comfortable outside," Dr. Marks said. "You can also look for clothing like "rash guards" with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which should be 30 or higher for your toddler."
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