How young is too young for a baby to wear sunscreen? Well, experts recommend using sunscreen only on babies that are older than 6 months. Using a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection is the way to go, as that will ensure your baby’s skin is protected from both UVA and UVB rays. And sticking with a product that is SPF 30 or higher is also best.
Once you have chosen the right sunscreen for your baby, it’s just a matter of applying it according to the label instructions, keeping in mind that you will likely need to reapply often if you are spending a lot of time in the great outdoors or if you and your baby are going to be playing in the water.
Rather than using the same sunscreen that you use on your body, it’s a good idea to search for baby sunscreen, in particular, when you want to protect your child’s skin from the sun. Keep reading to learn a bit about why this is important, and to check out some of our top product recommendations to make shopping for the right baby sunscreen easier.
Why You Should Search Specifically for Baby Sunscreen
At any age, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. The right sunscreen won’t irritate your skin, and it will be effective enough to help you avoid getting a painful sunburn. Plus, when you protect your skin from the sun, you are also taking a smart step towards helping to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
When it comes to protecting your child’s delicate skin from the sun’s harsh UVA and UVB rays, you might be wondering why we are recommending going with a baby sunscreen, rather than a regular sunscreen that adults would use. The explanation is pretty simple.
As you know, your baby’s skin is more delicate and sensitive than an adult’s, so using the wrong sunscreen might increase the odds of adverse effects like irritation. Choosing a baby sunscreen that contains ingredients that are gentle yet effective may help reduce the chances that your child’s skin will experience any problems, and this will give you loads of peace of mind, while keeping your little one happy.
If you’re planning on heading outside with your baby, and he or she is old enough for sunscreen, read the product’s label carefully to be sure you apply it correctly.
It’s likely that you’ll need to apply it about 15 minutes before going outside. Apply enough of the product to cover the skin sufficiently, and use caution when applying the sunscreen around your baby’s eyes (you might even consider looking for tear-free formulas that may reduce the odds of irritation).
In addition to applying sunscreen to the body and face, also apply some to your child’s ears and head. And consider buying a lip balm that is designed for babies and contains SPF, as it can help protect your little one’s delicate lips as well.
Note: When using a new sunscreen, it’s a good idea to test it out by putting a small amount of it on your baby’s skin. The inside of the wrist is a good spot to use. After applying it, see if a rash or any other type of irritation develops. If that happens, it’s a sign that you need to keep shopping to find a product that’s right for your child. Don’t forget to look at the ingredients list, and then try to find a product that contains different ingredients to help reduce the odds of side effects occurring again.
What to Look for in a Baby Sunscreen, and What to Avoid
We love the sun and we want to make sure that our bodies get healthy doses of her shining rays for Vitamin D–imperative to healthy bodies and minds.
But, especially for babies with brand-new-skin, we have to be careful with skin cancer, skin damage and sunburn. So we balance the sun with products that don’t give us more cancer risks as we’re taking her in. That means that when we’re looking for the best baby sunscreens, we want to use natural barrier sunscreens instead of chemical barriers.
What’s the difference? Well, chemical sunscreens filter the harmful UV rays with chemicals. They filter the ultraviolet rays out, but they do so using chemicals that absorb into your skin (your body’s largest organ) to block. Natural or physical barrier sunscreens block out the harmful UV rays by sitting on top of your skin and physically blocking the ultraviolet rays out.
What Are The Dangers of Chemical Sunscreens?
FDA testing has shown that all non-mineral sunscreen chemicals absorb into the body and are measurable in the blood even after just single use. Not to mention many of the ingredients in chemical sunscreens have been found in breast milk and urine.
In 2019, the FDA released a statement that said there wasn’t enough health or safety data that would allow them to designated 12 of the top 16 sunscreen chemicals as ‘generally recognized as safe and effective,’ or GRASE. Those 12 include oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and avobenzone.
Studies showed that those chemicals are found in blood and skin, even weeks after applied, and that only two ingredients were able to be considered safe: zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
And while the research is mixed concerning any of those chemical ingredients and their connections to cancer (though any connection is enough for us to suggest staying away), there is a definite concern for the use of many of those ingredients when it comes to protecting our oceans and reefs. In fact, many places around the world have banned the use of sunscreens with those ingredients.
Here are some things to look for as you shop for a sunscreen that is formulated specifically for babies:
- Mineral-based sunscreens, such as those that contain active ingredients like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, are a smart alternative to chemical-based sunscreens.
- Because your baby’s skin is so delicate, it’s best to search for products that have been formulated for use on sensitive skin. Avoiding ingredients like fragrances, PABA, and chemicals.
- Search for sunscreens that are water-resistant for anywhere from 40 to 80 minutes. That way, you can rest assured that, if you spend a lot of time in the water with your baby, his or her skin will still be protected. Again, just be sure to reapply as needed.
- When it comes to applying sunscreen to a baby’s face and body, it’s likely that you’ll find it easier to use a cream or stick, especially when it comes to ensuring you get enough on your child’s skin. Sprays might be difficult to apply, and you don’t want your baby accidentally breathing any of it in. Even some of the best and cleanest companies that make aerosol sprays don’t rank higher than a 3 on the EWG when it comes to ingredients.
5 of the Best Baby Sunscreens
Here is a shortlist of our top five picks for the best baby sunscreens to consider buying for your little one:
There’s really not a single thing that Earth Mama makes that worries us when it comes to using on our skin, and their Earth Mama Kids Uber-Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen is no exception. Formulated just for them and purposing to be extra careful with super sensitive skin, the colloidal oatmeal and argan oil make their sunscreens magic. Not to mention, there are no chemicals, and Earth Mama is a reef-friendly, broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protector that’s water-resistant and NSF/ANSI 305 Certified by Oregon Tilth. It’s clinically tested by pediatricians and dermatologists for your baby’s skin and one of our favorites.
The Baby Mineral Sunscreen from Blue Lizard is dermatologist recommended and made with delicate and sensitive skin in mind. And this brand is also pediatrician recommended, so it can be a good place to start when you are searching for a high-quality sunscreen that will protect your child while having some fun in the outdoors.
This sunscreen does not contain any chemical-based active ingredients because it relies on titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to reflect the sun’s UV rays. And this product will provide your baby with SPF 30+ broad-spectrum protection. You won’t find any octinoxate or oxybenzone in this product, which makes it a safer choice for both your child and the ocean’s reefs. Plus, it’s also fragrance-free and paraben-free, and it is water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
What’s also neat about this product is that it uses Smart Bottle Technology that you can use to teach your little one about the importance of wearing sunscreen in the great outdoors. Basically, the bottle will turn pink when it is exposed to UV light, so it can serve as a reminder to apply before heading outside and to reapply as needed.
The Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen is another good choice when you are searching for a sunscreen to protect your baby’s skin. This product is top-rated by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and it also passed the Whole Foods Premium Care requirements. Plus, it has received a lot of awards, too.
What makes this particular sunscreen so noteworthy? Well, it does not contain any harmful chemicals, such as oxybenzone, avobenzone, or 1,4 dioxane. It is also free of phthalates, parabens, and PABA. And it does not use any UV chemical absorbers. This product provides broad-spectrum protection and SPF 50+, thanks to the active ingredient, which is non-nano zinc oxide. Plus, it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, its ingredients are reef-friendly, it’s gluten-free and vegan, and it is also certified cruelty free by Leaping Bunny as well.
Parents will like the fact that this mineral-based sunscreen, which is made in the USA, is designed to be applied and absorbed easily, without leaving any oily residue behind. It can be used on the face and body. Just be sure to read the directions carefully to be sure you know when you need to reapply it to get the best results.
Badger is another well-known and safe family of products that will keep your family safe and protected without harmful chemicals. The non-nano zinc oxide is mixed with organic jojoba, organic beeswax, organic sunflower oil and Vitamin E to give your baby’s skin protection and nourishment at the same time. It’s a reef-safe pick that’s always an EWG favorite, and we love that it’s a woman-run, family-owned B Corporation that you can trust with your family and the earth.
Another mama-owned business that’s taking the sunscreen market by storm comes in the form of two moms who have backgrounds in public health and education. Created by Rachel Henderson and Dr. Ashely McGovern, Project Sunscreen roll-on sunscreen is designed to be better for the earth and for families. The moms wanted a sunscreen that was easy-to-use and effective, but that was also fun for kids so they might not groan and moan so much when you tell them to put some on. Rachel is a native of New Zealand and Australia and together with Ashely, they created the motivating sunscreen to protect kids and encourage them to use it at the same time. Project Sunscreen is cruelty-free and reef-friendly (in fact, the mamas won’t even let it be sold in countries that do animal testing!) and it comes in a different roll-on for every member of the family.
Get Ready for Fun in the Sun with Your Baby!
Now that you know about the benefits of using a baby sunscreen on your child, and you know about a few of the many options that are available, you can make a wise choice that is appropriate for you and your little one. Then, you can head out into the sunshine, whether you’re spending some time relaxing in your backyard, taking a stroll through the park, or hanging out at the beach. Your baby’s sensitive skin will be protected, and you’ll both enjoy the beautiful weather without needing to worry so much about the sun’s rays.
Photo credit: Alexander Penyushkin/Shutterstock