We all know that outdoors is one of the best places for kids to be. But if you’re not careful, it can also be dangerous. The sun’s rays that reach your baby’s sensitive skin can not only cause an uncomfortable burn but also put them at risk for long-term damage.
But what about sunscreen?
No doubt you’ve heard many of the concerns about potentially harmful chemicals in those, too.
So what’s a good mom to do?
We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to choose the best sunscreen, along with recommendations that fit your baby’s unique needs.
|Product||Best For||Our Rating|
|1. Neutrogena Pure (SPF 50+)||All Round|
|2. Nurture My Body (SPF 32)||Organic|
|3. MD Moms BabySilk (SPF 30)||Allergies|
|4. CeraVe Baby (SPF 45)||Fragrance-Free|
|5. ThinkBaby (SPF 50+)||All Natural|
- Why Should Your Baby Use Sunscreen?
- What Do I Need to Know About Sunscreen?
- When Do I Need to Use Sunscreen?
- Should I Use Sunscreen on My Newborn?
- Should I Be Worried About Chemicals?
- What Types of Sunscreens Are Available?
- What Should I Look for When Choosing Sunscreen?
- The Best Baby Sunscreens of 2018
- My Favorite Is…
Why Should Your Baby Use Sunscreen?
The sun’s rays emit ultraviolet light that causes sunburns, skin damage, and contribute to skin cancer. Children are particularly susceptible since one major sunburn during childhood doubles their risk of melanoma (skin cancer) during adulthood (source).
There are two types of ultraviolet light: UVA and UVB, and both are damaging. UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis (skin), and cause damage, aging, and contribute to skin cancer. UVB rays cause sunburns and also increase your risk of skin cancer (source).
Using sunscreen (especially broad-spectrum sunscreen, which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) blocks the harmful rays from being absorbed into your baby’s skin, preventing both burns and long-term sun damage.
What Do I Need to Know About Sunscreen?
One of the biggest factors to consider is the sun protection factor, shortened to “SPF” on the outside of most bottles. While there are some technical calculations about how long a particular “SPF” number will allow you to remain in the sun unscathed, the reality is that it is not exact – the intensity of the UV rays differ by time and location (source).
The consensus is that you should choose a minimum SPF of 15. The higher the number, the greater the protection – but it is not necessarily incremental. No level blocks 100% of the sun’s rays, and studies have shown that numbers above 30 provide little extra protection (source).
What’s important with sunscreen use is not to become complacent. Do not allow a high SPF number to trick you into thinking your little one is permanently protected all day. Instead, apply sunscreen liberally about 15-30 minutes before you plan to be in the sun, and every 2 hours after that – regardless of SPF level.
When Do I Need to Use Sunscreen?
Every time your child is outside, they should be protected from the sun. Regardless of temperature or cloud cover, ultraviolet rays from the sun can always reach your child’s skin (source).
During cooler temps, your child’s body is often covered, and the sun doesn’t feel as intense. While it’s true that the ultraviolet rays are not as strong in the winter, it’s still wise to slather sunscreen on all exposed skin throughout the year as damaging rays are still present.
Should I Use Sunscreen on My Newborn?
Before that age, reduce their sun exposure during peak hours and opt for hats and clothing with a sun protection factor (SPF).
After six months, choose a sunscreen that is formulated specifically for babies. This will help reduce the chance of irritating their sensitive skin. “Baby” sunscreen can also be used on toddlers and older children as well.
Should I Be Worried About Chemicals?
It is natural to be concerned about chemicals in products you rub into your baby’s skin. While sunscreens are made up of a number of different formulas that are widely considered to be safe for human use, one ingredient that may concern you is oxybenzone.
While some parents consider eschewing sunscreen altogether because they want to avoid chemical exposure, it’s important to remember that the chemicals serve a very specific function – to protect your child from dangerous ultraviolet rays that can cause cancer down the road.
If you’re very concerned about chemical exposure, choose a mineral-based sunscreen, which is not absorbed into the skin.
What Types of Sunscreens Are Available?
There are many different types of sunscreens available.
However, all fall into two main categories:
Chemical sunscreens are also known as “traditional” sunscreens. When applied to your skin, they rub in completely. Chemicals are in the sunscreen spray or lotion, which are then rubbed into your skin. These chemicals absorb the ultraviolet rays that would otherwise damage and burn your skin.
Mineral sunscreens are a newer class of sunscreens that are quickly gaining traction. They are also known as “barrier” sunscreens as they actually put a physical barrier between the harmful rays and your skin, scattering and reflecting the rays. While effective and touted as a safer chemical-free option, the major drawback is that they are thicker and can leave a white hue/residue on the skin.
Once you decide which type of sunscreen you prefer, they come in a myriad of application types.
- Lotion or Cream: This traditional application will typically get you the deepest coverage as you need to rub it into the skin.
- Spray: Sprays are convenient because they release sunscreen in a fine mist, but can be dangerous if inhaled. This type of sunscreen may not be the best option for babies or young children as they cannot be instructed to hold their breath during application.
- Mousse: Sunscreen mousse is similar in application to a spray, but the product does not come out in an airborne mist and needs to be rubbed in. A blend between a lotion and a spray, this is a safe but convenient option for babies.
- Stick: Stick sunscreen is a great option when applying it to the face. It doesn’t run and won’t get into little ones’ eyes.
What Should I Look for When Choosing Sunscreen?
When choosing a sunscreen for your baby or small child, keep the following considerations in mind:
- SPF: Per the American Academy of Pediatrics, choose a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 (source).
- Broad Spectrum: Choose a sunscreen that specifies it is “broad spectrum,” meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays.
- Formulated for Babies: The sunscreen you choose should be specifically formulated for babies or kids, to make sure it is safe for your child’s sensitive skin.
- Chemical or Mineral: Based on your personal preference and your child’s skin care needs, decide whether you’d like a chemical or mineral-based option. If your child has sensitive skin or other allergies, a mineral sunscreen option may be preferred as it is not absorbed into the skin.
- Application Method: Choose the application method that works best for your lifestyle and the age of your child. Be careful about choosing mist-based sprays for babies or young toddlers.
The Best Baby Sunscreens of 2018
Now that you know about the importance of using sunscreen on your baby or kids, the different kinds of options, and exactly what to look for —
Here are our top 10 picks in 2018:
If you’re looking for a sunscreen that’s safe to put on your baby’s skin, this is it.
Given a toxicity rating of zero by the Environmental Working Group (the lowest rating possible), you can be assured that no dangerous ingredients will come into contact with your little one.
It’s also certified vegan, and packaged in a BPA-free bottle that will not leach chemicals into your sunscreen at high heat (i.e., when it’s sitting in your beach bag in the sun).
It’s also made with certified organic ingredients for that extra peace of mind.
- This product is certified organic.
- It contains only 8 ingredients (not full of fillers and additives).
- It has a zero toxicity rating.
- This sunscreen is more expensive.
- It is very thick.
- You must shake it before application.
This product offers the convenience of a spray application with the effective coverage of a mineral sunscreen, this product is a blend of both worlds. The spray is not mist-like and therefore will not become airborne, causing your baby to inhale it.
It provides broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and is made with a gentle, non-allergenic formula that is easy on the skin and will not sting in your baby’s eyes if it gets in them.
Finally, you can be assured that there are no phthalates or parabens, giving you the confidence that you are choosing a product that is safe for your little one.
- This has a convenient spray application.
- It is water resistant.
- It will not sting your child’s eyes.
- It protects from both UVA and UVB rays.
- It needs to be rubbed in after spraying.
- It may stain white clothing.
- There are some filler chemicals.
Made with oats and developed in partnership with dermatologists, this sunscreen stick will keep your baby safe from the sun but not cause irritation or outbreaks.
The mineral-based sunscreen creates an invisible barrier on your baby’s skin, preventing the harmful rays from entering the dermis and causing burns or damage.
100% naturally sourced, this sunscreen option is a safe and gentle choice for your little one’s face.
- It was developed by dermatologists.
- It is water/sweat resistant.
- It offers barrier protection.
- This is easy to apply on the face.
- This product is expensive.
- It may be difficult to apply on the body.
- It is hard to rub in completely.
A mineral-based sunscreen from the trusted people at Burt’s Bees, this sunscreen will help keep your little one’s skin protected without making it all greasy.
Even better, it contains ingredients that will help to nourish and hydrate your skin in addition to blocking the sun.
This product offers protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and will stay on in the water since it’s water resistant. It’s also hypoallergenic and contains no potential irritants such as parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum.
- It provides broad-spectrum protection.
- It contains additional skin conditioners.
- Reviewers indicate it has a mild, pleasant fragrance.
- It is thick.
- It may leave a white cast on skin.
- It is only water resistant for 40 minutes.
ThinkBaby has made a sunscreen that is safe for baby’s skin, contains none of the questionable harmful chemicals, yet still, provides highly effective and gentle sun protection.
It has a very low toxicity rating from the Environmental Working Group (rating: 1) but offers the maximum sun protection and water resistance levels available according to FDA regulations.
Reviewers noted that this product was not sticky or greasy like some other sunscreen options, and was easy to wash off hands after application.
- This is air-travel-friendly (3 oz).
- There are no harmful chemicals.
- It is very effective.
- It washes off easily.
- It is thick to apply.
- You need to rub it in.
- It does not specify broad spectrum protection.
Sunscreen standards in Australia are the most stringent in the world, and that’s where the formula for this brand originates.
This mineral-based cream provides broad-spectrum protection without the questionable chemicals that make up traditional sunscreens.
It is also creatively packaged in a bottle that turns a deeper color based on a number of UV rays present, so it indicates your need to reapply sunscreen to your little one regularly.
The formula is identical to its “sensitive-skin” product, so you know it will be gentle on your baby’s skin.
- Bottle is BPA free.
- Offers broad-spectrum protection.
- Paraben and fragrance-free.
- Packaging indicates presence of UV rays.
- Some users complained it was oily/shiny.
- “Baby” formula is the same as “sensitive” formula.
This sunscreen is made from natural botanicals – so it’s bound to smell great. In fact, many reviewers commented on the fragrance, indicating that it was pleasant but not overpowering.
The pump spray bottle allows for ease of application without the dangers of a mist sunscreen, and it’s good for the environment, too.
The sunscreen is biodegradable and gluten-free and offers broad-spectrum protection along with 80 minutes of water resistance.
- This product is not greasy.
- It has a spray application.
- It is water resistant.
- It is botanical based.
- You need to rub it in.
- Some ingredients may cause allergic reactions.
- It has a fragrance, which may irritate skin.
This is labeled as a “baby” sunscreen, but it’s so gentle on skin that you just might use it on yours, too.
The ingredients are naturally sourced and contain no irritating additives like parabens, fragrances, or sulfates.
CeraVe offers broad-spectrum coverage and parents proclaim that it is easy on the most irritated of skin – even for babies with eczema.
- Gentle on irritated skin.
- Offers broad spectrum protection.
- It is water resistant for 80 minutes.
- It is fragrance-free.
- Some reviewers found it difficult to rub in.
- Packaging is small (3.5 oz); will need to buy frequently.
If you’re looking for a seal of approval, here it is. This sunscreen has been given the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association, practically guaranteeing that this will not further injure or irritate your little one’s skin.
Offering SPF 50 mineral-based barrier protection, it prevents both UVA and UVB rays from entering your baby’s skin.
It’s also water resistant, and most moms agree that this formula feels non-greasy when applied.
- It is formulated for eczema-prone skin.
- It is not oily.
- It provides broad spectrum protection.
- It is a little pricey.
- It may stain fabrics.
This dermatologist-approved formula contains no fragrances, parabens, phthalates, lanolin, or mineral oil – which means it contains none of the major causes of skin irritation in children.
And not only is it gentle on the skin, but it’s also gentle on the eyes, too – not irritating should contact occur.
This mineral-based sunscreen offers broad-spectrum coverage, and parents agree that it is easy to rub in and very effective at providing sun protection. If you need great sun protection without skin irritation, this is it.
- TSA approved for carry-on luggage.
- Contains no common allergens.
- It does not irritate the eyes.
- It is thick.It can be sticky when rubbing it in.
- The bottle is small; will need to re-purchase frequently.
My Favorite Is…
My personal favorite is the Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen. Not only does it offer a fantastic 50 SPF and broad-spectrum coverage, but it’s free of common allergens and approved for babies with eczema and other skin conditions.
And while sunscreens, in general, can be pretty expensive (especially ones specifically formulated for baby), this one is at a pretty decent price point for the volume and quality.
Now that you know your baby will be protected, it’s time to get out and enjoy some fun in the sun. So pack your beach bag, grab the kids, and head out – but don’t forget the sunscreen!