Sun exposure – the terrible truths of its effects on your baby

If you have NEVER held a newborn in your hand and felt, “Aw, so soft!”, while rubbing their cheeks, you are probably Hulk in disguise. Skin is the softest and yummiest part of any baby. (What? How do I know? Just saying!) From their very first bath, we ensure that we protect and nourish our baby’s skin.

Natural oil massages, homemade bath powder, non-toxic moisturizer and not to forget baby-friendly mosquito repellants (I am the best mosquito repellant, hands down. SWAT!). But, how many of us think of the effects of sun exposure on our babies?

Any grandparent will tell you that sunlight is essential for newborns, not only does it aide in absorbing Vitamin D but is also the best way to get rid of baby jaundice (apart from exclusive breastfeeding). However, a baby’s skin is thinner than adult skin, I am sure if you stare hard enough you can see their veins and probably the blood flowing through.

(Again, just saying!) It is also very delicate and sensitive so is more prone to sunburn. Few minutes of sun exposure during high radiation can lead to sunburn to the extent of first degree burns. Well, this time I am not just saying. It is true.

During our short stay in Australia, we were advised by our friends, locals and the Australian guidebook to never step out without sunscreen. Anybody who has been to the Ozzie land will tell how everything is a “bit” larger there, big spiders, big fishes, big babies (they really are, they said my 3.1kg newborn was underweight!) and also a big hole in their ozone layer.

I was so paranoid that I wouldn’t let my baby step out on to the balcony to see his dad off without sunscreen or even bask in the warm sunlight coming through the bay window.  So, sunscreen became an inseparable part of our lives while we stayed there.

Once back in India, we went back to square one. Who needs sunscreen in India? We are dark skinned and have enough melanin to save our asses; I mean skin. As kids we never bothered about the sun, so why bother our children with sunscreen now? The least we did was to play under the shade then. And the few times I used the sunscreen on my baby, my maid asked me if I was in a hurry to go somewhere that I was taking him out without giving him a bath after applying oil.

So, my sunscreen accumulated dust in the back of my cupboard for months until one day I happened to read an article on the rising levels of UV radiation in India and the ill effects of exposure to it. The electromagnetic radiation present in sunlight is called Ultraviolet radiation.

And the UV index was in a high-risk zone between the range of 7-10, and if the radiation would consistently be over seven, long-term exposure to it would mutate and cause degenerative changes in the skin cells, leading to premature skin ageing, inflammatory reaction to the eye and in worst cases melanoma, skin cancer in other words. All this is on adult skin, imagine the effect on the soft baby skin?

As much as you wish it, you can’t keep your baby under your wing forever. They need to explore the world and experience it in all its natural glory. But, I realized that while I am busy protecting my child, I also need to protect the environment. The more I use products with chemicals, the more I deprive him of a better world.

Hence, began my search for a perfect sunscreen which was free of harmful chemicals and non-greasy (for my dear maid’s sake). And I didn’t have to look far. Find out more in the next part.