Article Read Duration 6 min read

Because their skin is more vulnerable, babies and toddlers under 3 should have no direct sun exposure. Protection in childhood and adolescence is also paramount. In the short term, excessive sun exposure can cause dehydration, heatstroke and sunburn. In the long term, it can cause an increased risk of skin cancer. But this risk can be drastically reduced by teaching children smart sun protection habits:

• Generously apply broad-spectrum UVA-UVB SPF 50+ sunscreen every 2 hours.
• Choose a “wet skin” formula at the beach or pool that you can apply without having to dry skin off first.
• Seek shade and bring a sunshade or tent to the beach.
• Do not underestimate “indirect” sun exposure: Skin is still at risk on cloudy days, in the car, on the plane, etc. as UVA rays can pass through clouds and glass.
• Cover up with a hat, t-shirt, shades and high UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) swimwear.
• Use wearable technology such as My UV Patch to monitor sun exposure.


Children’s skin is more vulnerable to the sun than adults. It has been estimated that 50 to 80% of UV-related damage occurs during childhood and adolescence before the age of 20*.  And sun protection isn’t just for the holidays. Children are exposed to UV rays during all outdoor activities: playing in the park, the school playground, sports… Plus did you know that UVA can even pass through glass & clouds? 

It is commonly understood that sun protection is important, however as kids grow and become more active, sun protection measures can sometimes be relaxed. To help create consistent, healthy sun protection habits here are some reminders: 

  • Babies and children’s skin are thinner, more sensitive and more vulnerable to deeper cellular damage.  
  • Children’s skin has a less developed pigmentation system which does not have a self-defence system (which, in adults, helps protect the skin against UV rays). 
  • Children only express their discomfort when the damage is already done: 
  • Sunburn and deep cellular aggressions cause irreversible damage and make skin more fragile in the long term (acceleration of premature skin aging. 
  • 5 blistering sunburns before the age of 20 can increase the risk of melanoma by 80%**. 
  • Don’t forget that sun exposure is incremental: Cumulative sun exposure throughout childhood can all add up to increase their skin cancer risk over time. Even if children are not getting sunburn that blisters, a high amount of UV exposure consistently throughout childhood and adolescence, will increase their risk of sun damage and skin cancer later in life.  

It is therefore essential to find smart ways to protect your children’s skin from the potential harm caused by sun exposure. The good news is that you can teach your child sun smart habits which will protect them from the immediate effects of sunburn and dehydration as well as protect their skin’s health for the future. 


The Australian College of Dermatologists recommends that sunscreen is not used on babies under 6 months of age. To protect infants from the sun, it is recommended that they are not exposed to direct sunlight and other forms of sun protection are used – including shade, hats, and clothing 

  • Babies under 12 months of age should not be exposed to direct sun when UV levels reach 3 or higher. (Cancer Council Australia
  • Ensure children in prams and strollers are shaded from the sun with covers and adjust these regularly to keep them protected from the sun throughout the day. 
  • Protect your young children’s skin with clothing and seeking shade wherever possible.  
  • Test any sunscreen for infants and toddlers on a patch of skin before using all over their body.    



Sunburn is the obvious risk, but the effects can be life-long

Sun protection for children isn’t just for the holidays. Children are exposed to UV rays during outdoor activities all year round: picnics in the park, activities in the playground, playing sports etc. Babies are particularly vulnerable to sunburn, even with indirect sun exposure (this is when your baby is in the shade, but reflected sunlight still reaches their skin so protection is still crucial).

Sun damage is incremental and cumulative: Think of it like spending on a sun credit card. With every “purchase” you make (sun exposure), your “sun debt” increases. It all adds up to increasing the risks over time.

When children get too much sun, there are obvious short-term risks:

  • Dehydration.
  • Heatstroke.
  • Painful sunburn.

Children love playing outside, and we want them to have fun! But parents need to remain vigilant - A child will only express the discomfort of sunburn when the damage has already been done to his or her skin. And the long-term effects are more worrying. Over-exposure to UV rays entails serious risks for skin such as:

  • Acceleration of skin ageing.
  • Skin cancers such as melanoma.

Scary fact: As few as 5 blistering sunburns before the age of 20 can increase the risk of melanoma (skin cancer) by 80%.2.

All these risks can be drastically reduced by teaching children smart sun protection habits. Read on for our practical guide.


Teach your kids to be sun-smart

Protection isn’t just about sunscreen. By teaching your children sun-safe behaviours today, you are actively caring for their skin’s health in the future. A study conducted in Germany involving young children demonstrated that sun safety education increases good protection habits by 500%. Learning how to be sun-smart will help your kids stay safer in the sun.

Here are some smart ways to keep your kids safe:


General measures to protect children from the sun

  • Encourage children to play in the shade.
  • Teach children to “read their shadow” and stay in the shade if their shadow is smaller than they are.
  • Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, anti-UV sunglasses, and dark clothing (a black tee-shirt is more protective than a white one); in the water, maximise protection with high-UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) swimwear, one-piece bathing suits, and longer swimming trunks.
  • Do not underestimate “indirect” exposure: UVA rays can pass through clouds and glass, so skin is still at risk on an overcast day, in the car or on a plane journey.
  • Bring along a beach umbrella or tent.
  • Make sure that your children drink water regularly.

Best sunscreen for kids? Here’s our top tips

  • Use a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB SPF 50+ sunscreen on all exposed skin.
  • Apply sunscreen frequently (at least every two hours) and as evenly and as generously as you can. Don’t skimp on any areas - which is easily done when your children are wriggling or ticklish! Also be sure to apply generously: As a general rule of thumb, a golf ball-sized amount of sunscreen is needed to protect the whole body.
  • Pay attention to frequently forgotten areas: Ears, nose, lips, back of the neck, hands, and feet.
  • Re-apply sunscreen immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • To provide protection at the beach or pool, choose a sunscreen specifically designed for application on wet skin.
  • Show your kids how to apply their own sun protection. 

How to explain sun protection to a child

It can be challenging to teach very young children about sun protection. The Cancer Council of Australia’s Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide slogan is a simple, sun smart message to teach children how to “Have fun outside but don’t get fried”. 

  • Slip on a shirt. 
  • Slop on sunscreen. 
  • Slap on a hat. 
  • Seek shade. 
  • Slide on sunglasses.


Apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Sunscreen is only one part of sun protection so wear protective clothing and seek shade. Avoid prolonged sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, towelling and perspiring in accordance with directions.


La Roche-Posay's ANTHELIOS Dermo-Pediatrics SPF 50+ range provides sun protection for young children and babies, aged over 6 months. These sunscreens are formulated for young skin, containing minimal ingredients whilst offering very high, broad-spectrum UVB and UVA protection. ANTHELIOS Kids SPF 50+ sunscreens contain soothing and anti-oxidant La Roche-Posay Thermal Spring Water

All products are tested under paediatric and dermatological control. 

  • ANTHELIOS Wet Skin Gel Lotion SPF 50+ can be applied directly to wet skin, to provide 4 hours protection at the beach or pool.

1 Robinson JK et al. Summertime sun protection used by adults for their children. J Am Acad Dermatol 2000

2 American Association for Cancer Research Press Release, May 29, 2014