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Even if you don’t always follow the rules — and you should always follow the rules when it comes to sun safety — you know how sunscreen works for adults. Slather on a minimum of SPF 30 every two hours, or after getting wet, to protect your skin from harmful rays. But when it comes to baby sunscreen, you might be a little less certain. “The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that sunscreen be applied on children 6 months or older,” says Dr. Terry Zickerman, Founder of Love Sun Body. “That’s because delicate newborn skin can react to the chemicals in sunscreen, and some babies may develop a skin reaction like contact dermatitis.”
Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight, shading them in the stroller. Be sure to dress them in protective clothing instead, such as a lightweight cotton long-sleeved shirt, pants and a hat.
We tapped Dr. Zickerman to answer all of your burning (pun intended) questions about sun safety and the best baby sunscreens.
How are a baby’s needs for sunscreen different than an adult’s?
“The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using mineral sunscreen formulas for a baby’s sensitive skin,” Dr. Zickerman says. “The chemicals in sunscreen penetrate deeper, making newborns more vulnerable to contact dermatitis (skin reactions, like rashes), allergies or inflammation. Thus, it is wise to avoid any ingredients that could cause babies problems. Consumer Reports has advised against spraying all sunscreen on your kids. Sprays could inadvertently get in the child’s lungs during application.
“Not all sunscreens are created equal. Chemical filter sunscreens were developed for their ease of use and inexpensive ingredients. These products typically include a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Despite concerns from the FDA, oxybenzone is still legal and is used in some of the most commercially popular sunscreen brands available. Oxybenzone, which is a hormone disruptor, can have hormonal effects on a child, and in the long term it may cause things like early puberty.”
What should parents look for in baby sunscreens?
“The Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using mineral sunscreen formulas for a baby’s sensitive skin,” Dr. Zickerman says. “Mineral sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide, sit on your skin and reflect light and block the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.”
Do babies need to wear a higher SPF?
“The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a water-resistant mineral sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 for younger children’s skin,” Dr. Zickerman says. “I recommend using a mineral sunscreen that is SPF 30 or SPF 50 that is labeled broad spectrum to protect against UVA and UVB rays.”
What is the best way to apply sunscreen to a baby?
“Apply sunscreen to babies and children 15 minutes before sun exposure,” Dr. Zickerman says. “If they go in the water, put on another coat immediately after they get out. You want to be generous with sunscreen application.”
How often should it be applied and when?
“Reapply every one and a half to every two hours,” Dr. Zickerman says.
What are common mistakes that parents make when it comes to baby sunscreens?
“Not applying enough sunscreen, not reapplying often enough and applying sunscreen sprays,” Dr. Zickerman says. “Again, Consumer Reports has advised against spraying all sunscreen on your kids.”
Do you recommend other products that protect babies from UV exposure?
“It’s best to dress your baby regularly in a brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that fully covers the arms and legs,” Dr. Zickerman says.
Why is sun protection for babies so important?
“There is strong evidence that sun exposure and sunburns during childhood multiply the risk of one day developing skin cancer, including melanoma,” Dr. Zickerman says. “While melanoma still rarely develops before age 20, incidence in children and teens is rising rapidly. The skin of all infants (not just those who have fair skin) is particularly vulnerable to sun damage. This is partly because they haven’t yet developed all the melanin — the natural skin pigment that provides some sun protection — that they will have when they get older.”
Seems like a lot, we know. But, don’t worry! After doing our research and speaking with Dr. Zickerman, we’re confident in our round-up of the best baby sunscreens. Take a look below!
1. Baby Bum SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion
Sun Bum was created by a group of surfers, so they know sun protection. That will ease your worries when you slather your little one in Baby Bum, their spinoff line for kids. The mineral-based sunscreen has SPF 50, making it one of the best baby sunscreens to guard your kids from UVA and UVB rays. The lotion sinks right into skin and doesn’t feel oily, so it’s easier to convince children to wear it. The plant-based formula is super gentle, with ingredients like natural zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter and cocoa butter that works for all skin types, including sensitive baby skin. Formulated just for kids, it’ll also hydrate and nourish their skin.
2. Love Sun Body 100% Natural Origin Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 Fragrance-Free
“This is our best-selling sunscreen formula for babies and children,” Dr. Zickerman says. “The formula is 100% natural origin, clinically tested hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, vegan, cruelty-free and reef safe with no eye stinging ingredients. Love Sun Body Sunscreens are the only sunscreens in the U.S. certified Cosmos Natural.”
At $24.00 per bottle, it’s far from inexpensive, but we feel the price is more than worth the product. Plus, Love Sun Body is made in the US, and we’re always keen to support US-made products whenever we can.
3. Mustela Baby Mineral Sunscreen – Broad Spectrum SPF 50
Mustela designs their sunscreen to be worn by the entire family, making this the most convenient baby sunscreen. Even better, it can be used on the face and body, so there’s no need to lug around extra bottles! The mineral sunscreen is made to be used for anyone and everyone, even those with sensitive and eczema-prone skin. Made with 93% naturally derived ingredients, it has a light texture and is fragrance-free, paraben-free and water-resistant.
4. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen
There won’t be any tears with this baby sunscreen. Designed for delicate baby skin, naturally-sourced 100% zinc oxide delivers sun protection, plus it’s also spiked with oat to soothe skin. The gentle, tear-free formula is sweat- and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and won’t sting or irritate. Made for the face and the body, it has been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
5. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen
Neutrogena’s tear-free formula is free of all the stuff you want to avoid — including fragrance, parabens, phthalates, dyes and irritating chemicals — making it a great baby sunscreen. Offering broad-spectrum protection, naturally-sourced 100% zinc oxide leads the ingredients list. It also contains the brand’s Purescreen Technology to absorb, reflect and scatter harmful rays from the sun. Safe for sensitive skin and babies, the hypoallergenic baby zinc sunscreen is water-resistant for 80 minutes has earned the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.
6. Banana Boat Simply Protect Baby
If you’re looking for a baby sunscreen that won’t budge, then this is the formula for you. Designed with maximum staying power, Banana Boat Simply Protect Baby lasts through seven conditions: sun, pool water, ocean water, wind, sweat, sand and even 100-degree heat. The lightweight, water-resistant formula was reformulated with 25% fewer ingredients to get it down to the essentials.
7. Thinkbaby SPF 50+ Sunscreen
Safe for your baby and the planet, Thinkbaby SPF 50+ Sunscreen doesn’t have any harmful chemicals. The non-toxic, vegan formula is biodegradable and reef safe, earning it a top rating by EWG. This sunblock never feels oily or sticky, plus it has the highest water resistance possible per the FDA.
8. Babyganics Sunscreen Lotion 50 SPF
Pediatrician and dermatologist tested, this baby sunscreen is safe for young skin. In addition to zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum SPF 50 UVA and UVB protection, the formula includes their NeoNourish Seed Oil Blend, which is their exclusive mix of tomato, sunflower, cranberry, black cumin and raspberry seed oils to nourish skin. The reef-safe formula is made sans oxybenzone and octinoxate, as well as any other icky ingredients such as PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrances or nanoparticles.
9. Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
Chock full of skin-loving plant-based ingredients like coconut, shea butter and calendula, this natural formula is formulated for super sensitive skin. Quick to absorb and impressively lightweight, it features 100% non-nano zinc to deliver 80 minutes of water- and sweat-resistant protection. The mineral formula is reef-safe and free of all harsh chemicals and irritants, making it one of the best baby sunscreens on the market.