If you’re looking for the safest sunscreen for babies, it can be hard to sort through what is best for your family. Should you choose a mineral sunscreen or a chemical sunscreen? What even is a chemical sunscreen? What ingredients should you be on the lookout for? Is there anything else you can do to protect your baby’s skin?
We want you to feel confident in your choice of a sunscreen to cover your baby’s skin, so here are Truly Mama’s pick for the safest sunscreens for babies.
- Is Sunscreen Safe for Babies?
- Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Know the Difference
- What Type of Sunscreen is Best for Babies?
- Tips for Sun Safety in Babies
- Best Overall Mineral Sunscreen: Blue Lizard Baby Mineral Sunscreen
- Easiest to Rub In: Thinkbaby Sunscreen
- Best Vegan Sunscreen: Baby Bum Water Resistant Sunscreen
- Best Sunscreen for Eczema: CeraVe Suncare Sunscreen Baby Lotion
- Best Organic Sunscreen: Coola Mineral Body Organic Sunscreen
- Best Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Reef Safe Biodegradable Waterproof SPF
- Best for the Whole Family: Hello Bello Mineral Baby Sunscreen
Is Sunscreen Safe for Babies?
As a parent, you want to know that the sunscreen you’re applying on your child is safe, which is definitely understandable. Overall, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) explains that the research does support that the regular use of sunscreen is associated with a decreased risk of skin cancer.
They also note that there are two main ingredients in sunscreen that are considered safe and effective:
- Titanium dioxide
- Zinc oxide
The two ingredients that they explain are not considered safe and effective are PABA and Tolamine salicylate, which are not allowed to be sold in the U.S. The organization is also calling for more research on twelve additional ingredients to ensure they are safe:
- ensulizole, octisalate, homosalate, octocrylene, octinoxate, oxybenzone, avobenzone (these are most often used in the U.S.)
- Cinoxate, dioxybenzone, meradimate, padimate O, sulisobenzone (these are usually not found in the U.S.)
While more research is being done to learn exactly how safe these ingredients are, the AAD also doesn’t have a specific recommendation to avoid those ingredients either–they just want more data to work with. That means that, as a parent, you can be aware to look for sunscreens that have those ingredients so you can make the decision that you are most comfortable with.
“If shade and UV-protective clothing isn’t possible, choose a SPF of at least 30 for babies and toddler."
Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Know the Difference
It also helps you to make a decision about sunscreen for your baby by understanding what types of sunscreen are available. There are two main types of sunscreen: chemical and mineral sunscreens and they both work differently.
Here are the differences between chemical and mineral sunscreens:
Chemical sunscreens, explain the AAD, act like a sponge to absorb the sun’s rays. They tend to be the type of sunscreen that’s easier to rub into your skin, because that’s what it’s meant to do–rub into your baby’s skin to absorb the rays.
You can tell if a sunscreen is chemical if has at least one of the these active ingredients:
Mineral sunscreens, on the other hand, sit on top of the skin and act like a “shield” against the sun’s rays. They deflect the rays so they don’t cause harm to the skin. Because they’re meant to literally block the sun’s rays, they’re also less likely to absorb into the skin, so they’ll sit thick and white on top of the skin.
Mineral sunscreens have one or both of these:
- Titanium dioxide
- Zinc oxide
“Dermatologist tip: Titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to irritate a baby’s skin. ”
What Type of Sunscreen is Best for Babies?
It’s generally recommended that parents opt for keeping babies who are under six months old in the shade instead of putting sunscreen on them, but the AAD does say that if keeping your baby solely in the shade isn’t possible, you should use a small amount of sunscreen.
Basically, it’s not a practice to get in the habit of, but if it can’t be avoided, some protection is better than nothing.
So what kind of sunscreen should you use on a baby? According to the AAD, you can apply a small amount of broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least SPF 30. They recommend that if possible, you choose sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide because they’re less likely to irritate a baby’s sensitive skin.
You should also be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours and right after your child gets wet or is sweating a lot. The AAD explains that there’s sunscreen that is truly waterproof, so it’s important to reapply often.
Tips for Sun Safety in Babies
Keeping your baby safe in the sun is a priority for parents, especially because baby’s skin is more sensitive than adult skin and because babies aren’t exactly known for staying safe on their own.
There are a few ways that the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that parents work to keep their babies safe in the sun:
- Stay in the shade whenever possible. This is their #1 tip and it’s a great one for kids of all ages. You can utilize pools with shades, strollers with protective coverings, and beach umbrellas to provide shade.
- Use UV-protective clothing. Almost equally as important to staying in the shade as much as possible is to wear UV protective clothing. UV protective clothing actually provides built-in protection from the sun, even without sunscreen, so it’s like sunscreen right in your baby’s clothes. You can check out our full UV protective clothing guide for recommendations on the best protective gear, including bathing suits for babies and toddlers.
- Use sunscreen when appropriate. And last but not least, you should apply sunscreen on your little one whenever they will be exposed directly to the sun.
Here are our top picks for the safest sunscreens for babies.
Best Mineral Sunscreen
Easiest to Rub In
Best Vegan Sunscreen
Best Sunscreen for Eczema
Best Organic Sunscreen
Best for Reefs
Best for the Whole Family
Frequently Asked Questions
What makes sunscreen “safe” for babies?
The main thing that most health-conscious parents want to look for in safe sunscreens for babies is how the sunscreen is protecting their babies. There are two ways sunscreen works: 1) chemical-based protection, which absorbs into the skin and then absorbs UV rays and 2) mineral-based sunscreen, which work as a barrier on top of the skin to deflect UV rays. (Typically, zinc oxide is the main ingredient of mineral-based sunscreen.) Because of the differences in how they work, many parents choose mineral-based sunscreen for their babies to avoid having chemicals absorbed into their babies’ skin.
What’s the best sunscreen for babies under 6 months?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that whenever possible, infants should stay out of direct sunlight. They recommend that babies under 6 months old do not use sunscreen, and instead, stay in the shade. Truly Mama’s recommendation is to dress your babies in lightweight protective clothing and wide brim hats and if direct sunlight cannot be avoided, speak to your pediatrician about the best natural sunscreen for babies under 6 months old.
What number SPF does my baby need?
When your baby is older than 6 months old, a good principle to choosing the right sun protection factor is to always start with a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30, but 50 is always the gold star standard.
How often should I reapply my baby’s sunscreen?
If you are spending the day outside—no matter if you are at the beach in a bathing suit or at the park fully dressed—protecting your bundle of joy with sunscreen is a necessity. Directions may differ from each bottle or brand, and some may be more water resistant than others, but it is a good rule of thumb to first apply a layer approximately 15 minutes before stepping outdoors. Once the base layer is established, re-apply sunscreen at least every two hours.
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Reviewed by Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN…