The skin is increasingly recognized as a component of the innate immune response, in addition to its role as a physical barrier. Although the deleterious effects of solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR), including immunosuppression and cutaneous tumorigenesis, are widely acknowledged, most studies to date have concentrated on adult skin. Despite the more sensitive nature of infant and toddler skin, little is known about its responses to UVR exposure, whether acute or long-term. Accumulating evidence suggests not only that the skin's barrier protection remains immature throughout at least the first 2 years of life but also that accumulation of UVR-induced changes in the skin may begin as early as the first summer of life. Such evidence not only affirms the importance of sun protection during the infant and toddler years but underscores the need for more research to establish evidence-based standards of care in this area. In this article we review recent studies in which differences between the skin properties of infants and young children and those of adults were compared, and we discuss the implications of these differences for sun-protection practices.

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