For the best protection use all five forms of sun protection – clothing, sunscreen, a broad-brim hat, shade and sunglasses – when the UV is 3 and above.
1. Slip on sun protective clothing
If you can see skin, UV can reach it. Clothing can be a great barrier between the sun’s UV and your child’s skin.
Try to cover as much skin as possible with cool, loose-fitting clothing made from densely-woven fabric like cotton. If your child is wearing a singlet top or dress with thin straps, don't forget to layer up with a t-shirt or shirt before outdoor play.
Does your child’s school uniform or dress code include sun protective clothing items that follow the Australian sun protective clothing standard? Make sure your children are being well protected when they need it most. See Top Tips for Sun-Protective School Uniforms
More tips on sun protective clothing.
2. Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen
- Choose a sunscreen that your child feels comfortable wearing and is easy to apply.
- From about the age of three, let children practise applying sunscreen so they can develop this skill ready for pre-school and school.
- Set up a sunscreen station in the bathroom at home so children can apply their sunscreen in front of the mirror and then wipe their hands.
- Pop sunscreen in the cooler section of their lunchbox so it will be cold when applying – especially refreshing on a hot, summer’s day.
- Try a clip-on sunscreen that can hang from your child’s bag and act as a visual reminder.
- Make sunscreen application a bit of fun and encourage children to put a dot of sunscreen on each cheek, nose and their chin and carefully rub it in (avoiding the eye area). They can add squiggles of sunscreen to any part of their arms and legs not covered with clothing.
- Remember role modelling – children learn best from what they see adults doing. Apply your sunscreen at the same time so children can watch how you do it and follow your example.
- Remember, no sunscreen blocks out 100% of UV radiation. Always use sunscreen as a last line of defence in combination with clothing, hats sunscreen and shade.
Sunscreen tips for your child’s childcare/preschool
Sunscreen tips for your child’s primary school
Sunscreen and babies
We do not recommend widespread use of sunscreen on babies under 6 months old. Physical protection such as shade, clothing and broad-brim hats are the best sun protection measures. If babies are kept out of the sun or well protected from UV radiation by clothing, hats and shade, then sunscreen only needs be used occasionally on very small areas.
Sunscreen reactions and allergies
All sunscreens in Australia are tightly regulated through the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The risk of allergies from sunscreen use is very small. If an allergic reaction to sunscreen does occur, it is usually caused by perfumes and/or preservatives in the product, not the ingredients that filter or block UV. If a person experiences an allergic reaction to a sunscreen, look for a fragrance-free product such as a toddler or sensitive sunscreen.
If you are concerned about reactions to sunscreen, Cancer Council recommends performing a usage test before using a new sunscreen. Apply a small amount of the new sunscreen to a small patch of skin, such as on the inside of the forearm (for babies choose an area they can't usually reach to suck on). Apply over a few days to check if the skin reacts.
While the usage test may show whether the skin is sensitive to an ingredient in the sunscreen, it may not always indicate an allergy, as this may also occur after repeated use of the product. As with all products, use of any sunscreen should cease immediately and medical attention should be sought if any unusual reaction is observed. Professional assessment and testing by a dermatologist may be useful to identify the ingredient in the sunscreen that is causing the reaction.
More tips on sunscreen.
3. Slap on a sun-protective hat
Many children do not like to wear hats. Persistence is needed to teach them that a sun protective hat is part of their outside routine. If a hat is on, the outdoor fun is on!
Children are more likely to wear their hat if you do too.
Choose a hat that shades your head, face, eyes, ears and neck. Bucket, broad-brim or legionnaire hats are best. Caps do not offer enough protection, so leave those inside.
- For babies, choose a hat fabric that will crumple easily when they put their head down.
- For younger children choose a hat size that is proportional to the size of their head and provides shade across their face and neck areas.
- For older children, a bucket hat should have a deep crown and angled brim which is at least 6cm. A broad-brim hat should have a brim that is at least 7.5cm. The side flap and front peak of a legionnaire hat should meet to protect the side of the face.
- Hats that can be adjusted at the crown are best. If the hat is secured with a long strap and toggle, ensure it has a safety snap, place the strap at the back of the head or trim the length so it doesn’t become a choking hazard.
A note about head lice
Head lice have not been found to live in hats because hats do not provide the right conditions for them to thrive and survive. For more information see Department of Health – Head Lice and Better Health Channel.
More tips on sun-protective hats.
4. Seek shade
- Babies under 12 months have very sensitive skin and should always be kept in dense shade and out of direct sunlight during the daily sun protection times (when the UV is 3 or higher).
- The shade moves with the sun, so be prepared to move around and follow the shade.
- Trees with dense foliage with a dark, even shade patch are the best types of natural shade.
- Take portable shade with you to make sure you don’t get caught out. Consider a beach or market umbrella or shade tent.
- Use a shade visor or hang a light blanket over the side windows in the car. Side and back windows don’t offer as much protection as the front windscreen.
- When buying a pram, check that the hood can be adjusted, so that it can be moved to block out the direct sun. For the best protection, pram shade covers should completely cover the pram and be made of densely woven fabric that combines a mesh section – so the baby can see out and air can circulate – and a shade fabric section. The fabric section should block close to 100% of UV radiation (UPF50+) and the mesh section should block at least 70% of UV radiation (UPF3.3).
More tips on shade.
5. Slide on sunglasses
Sunglasses designed for babies and toddlers may have soft elastic to keep them in place. It is important to choose a style that stays on securely so that the arms don't become a safety hazard.
Some young children may be reluctant to wear sunglasses. You can still help to protect their eyes by putting on a broad-brimmed hat and staying in the shade.
Toy sunglasses do not meet the requirements under the Australian Standard and should not be used for sun protection.
More tips on sunglasses.
Sun protection for babies and toddlers
A baby’s skin is thin, sensitive and can burn easily. Babies under 12 months have very senstive skin and should always be kept in dense shade and out of direct sun during the daily sun protection times (when the UV is 3 or higher).
More information for protecting babies and toddlers.
Sun protection on holidays
Holidays often mean lots of time spent having fun outdoors! Remember to check the free SunSmart app wherever you are as the UV can change significantly depending on your location. Whatever the weather or location, if you are spending time outside, check the UV and don't get caught out.