Baby Sunscreen Buying Guide
What is a Baby Sunscreen?
Sunscreen has been a means of protecting people from the damaging rays of the sub for hundreds of years. Some of the first products used in sun protection included jasmine and olive oil. Now more than ever, parents are conscious of the ingredients in the baby products they use on their little ones and there are more choices than ever before.
Sunscreen hit the commercial market in 1938 and has progressed since then to include many natural products that avoid the use of harsh ingredients that can cause skin problems for your baby. There are two basic types of sunscreens available, physical and chemical. Broad spectrum sunscreen is a combination of these two types.
Despite popular belief, sunscreen should even be worn on cloudy days since 40% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays reach the earth even on a completely cloudy day. It’s possible to find the perfect baby sunscreen that will provide the necessary protection you want for your baby without the chemicals that can cause skin rashes and irritation.
Choosing the Right Sunscreen
When you are choosing a baby sunscreen for your child, it is important to know the difference between sunblock and sunscreen. Many people think they are the same thing but this is not the case. They are made of different ingredients and provide different levels of protection for your child. Many lotions and consumer products contain sunscreen including moisturizers, make up and even aftershave lotions.
Those are fine for people who don’t spend as lot of time outdoors, but if your baby or toddler is playing outside, you want a product that is specifically designed to protect them from the sun’s UVA/UVB rays.
Types of Sunscreen
There are many different forms that sunscreen comes in. These will include:
There are two basic types of sunscreens: Physical and Chemical and then there is Broad Spectrum sunscreen. We will explain the differences below.
Physical Sunscreen – Another name for physical sunscreen is a sunblock. A physical sunscreen reflects the UVA/UVB rays, preventing them from penetrating the skin. They are not absorbed by the skin so they last longer than chemical sunscreen and are effective as soon as you apply it.
Common ingredients in a physical sunscreen/sunblock include titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. If your baby seems to have an allergy to traditional, chemical sunscreens, a physical sunblock is a good alternative that will provide protection without any irritation.
Parents can apply a physical sunscreen up to 3 times a day and they can be used on babies since they are gentle enough. Since they do not penetrate the skin, it is very rare that they will cause skin irritations or cause any allergies.
Chemical Sunscreen – This type of sunscreen absorbs the sun’s harmful UV rays. Common ingredients in chemical sunscreens include avobenzone and benzophenone. Often times this type of sunscreen contains UVA and UVB absorbing chemicals that can cause skin rashes and irritations.
Chemical sunscreens will penetrate the skin and they usually have multiple active ingredients that block a different region of the UV ray. Some chemical sunscreens also contain physical sunscreen/sunblock ingredients such as zinc oxide.
Broad Spectrum Sunscreen – Broad spectrum sunscreen is a blend of both chemical and physical sunscreen and contains ingredients from both. They are typically the recommended sunscreen choice since they have the right ingredients to protect the baby from both UVA and UVB rays.
Most of the sunscreens on the market today are broad spectrum sunscreens and will have a multitude of ingredients. Even the natural sunscreens are protecting babies from both types of UV rays so parents have more choices than ever when it comes to a sunscreen that will protect their baby’s skin.
What to Look for in a Good Sunscreen?
With all of the choices available nowadays, you may find choosing ONE a little overwhelming. Below we have outlined the features of a good baby sunscreen so you know what to look for when you start shopping. Ideally you want to look for a broad spectrum sunscreen that will protect your child from both the UVA and UVB rays. Below are some additional features to look for.
- SPF 15 or Higher – The SPF factor is what determines the effectiveness of the sunscreen in preventing the UVB rays from burning the skin. An SPF of 15 means that you can stay out in the sun approximately 15 times longer than without protection at all. An example of this is, if you can stay out in the sun 10 minutes without any sunscreen before burning, the SPF 15 sunscreen would allow you to stay out in the sun for 150 minutes, or 15 x 10 minutes. If you have extremely fair skin, it is better to reapply the sunscreen before the 150 minutes or you should get a higher SPF. For 6 months of age and older, an SPF of 30 or more is recommended.
UVA Protection – Since there is no way to tell how good a particular sunscreen is at blocking UVA rays, what you will be looking for is specific ingredients that indicate UVA protection. You want to make sure that the sunscreen you are considering has at least one of the following ingredients:
- Titanium dioxide
- Zinc oxide
- Water and Sweat Resistant – If you are exercising outdoors, playing in the pool or at the beach or otherwise sweating from the temperature, you want to make sure your sunscreen is still going to be working. Look for good, water and sweat resistant formula. Understand that water resistant does not mean waterproof. You will need to reapply the sunscreen after being in the water or if you are sweating a lot.
All Natural Ingredients – There are a number of all natural baby sunscreens on the market today so finding choices that are not loaded down with chemical ingredients is easier than ever. There are some ingredients you want to avoid when it comes to your baby. They are ingredients that are prevalent in sunscreens but if you are using them on your baby, you want to avoid them and look for alternatives that are not going to cause skin irritations. The ingredients to avoid when shopping for baby sunscreen include:
Wearing and Applying Sunscreen Properly
Choosing the right sunscreen is important but you also need to make sure that you apply it correctly as well. We’ve provided some application tips for you to ensure the most protection for your baby.
- Apply the sunscreen to your baby or toddler about 15-30 minutes before you go outdoors. Make sure you put plenty of sunscreen on; this is not the time to skimp.
- Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the baby’s head, back of the neck, tips of the ears, back of their legs, the feet and use SPF lip balm too. Burned lips are very easy to get and are extremely painful.
- Reapply every two hours maximum and if the baby is sweating a lot or playing in the water, reapply more often than that, especially after they come out of the water.
- Sunscreens expire and lose their effectiveness over time, so make sure to pay attention to the expiration date on your sunscreen.
- Apply sunscreen to your baby even on overcast days, especially at the beach or pool. The dangerous UV rays can penetrate the clouds just as easily. Also apply sunscreen during the winter if you are going to be outdoors. You can still get burned, even in the snow.
Who should be using Sunscreen?
Simply put, everyone over the age of 6 months should use sunscreen when they are outside. You should also wear sunscreen if you work next to windows that the sun comes streaming into. Windows, unless they are specially treated, do not block UV rays and you can get burned if you are in the rays at the window long enough.
If your baby is under 6 months of age, most sunscreens are not recommended. However, a baby under 6 months of age should not be exposed to the sun’s rays at all. This doesn’t mean they can’t be outside, but it does mean that they should be under umbrellas, wearing hats, baby sunglasses, and in the shade as much as possible.
Additional Protection to Pair with Your Baby Sunscreen
No sunscreen can give you 100% protection from the suns UV rays. Because of this fact, there are additional means of protection that you should use for your baby along with a good baby sunscreen. These include:
- Not being in the sun too long, even with sunscreen protection
- Get your baby sunglasses. If they are introduced to it early enough they won’t fight wearing them.
- Don’t be outside when the UV radiation levels are at their highest which is roughly, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Wear a broad brimmed hat or sun bonnet. Thin cotton bonnets will not provide any protection for the baby as the UV rays can oftentimes go right through the fabric.
- Bring Beach umbrellas and set them up so you can get out of the sun often, especially when spending extended time at the beach or pool.
Finding the right sunscreen for your baby is an important part of protecting them from harmful UV rays that can burn their skin in the short term and cause long term skin damage later in life. Taking the time to look at the ingredients in the sunscreens you are considering will help ensure that you get the right level of protection and the right combination of ingredients for your baby.
There are sunscreens available for all types of skin and all types of situations, whether it is a baby with super sensitive skin or one that seems to never burn. Even if your child seems to have skin that tans easily, they still need a sunscreen to protect their skin from the damage that UV rays cause.
Ensuring good sunscreen protection will enable your baby to enjoy being outside without having to suffer with painful sunburns later on.