Want to take the littlest member of your family into the great outdoors? Before you leave the comfort of your air conditioned, UV ray-free home home and head for the pool, beach, or lake, make sure your baby is protected from the sun. One of the best ways to do this? Sunscreen.
When can babies wear sunscreen?
The American Academy of Dermatology and American Academy of Pediatrics both say that sunscreen is safe to start using on babies at age six months. Prior to that, you should make every effort to keep your baby out of the sun.
But once your baby hits the six-month mark, it’s generally considered safe to apply sunscreen to your baby’s skin. However, pediatricians and dermatologists caution against using any old sunscreen on your baby.
“We generally prefer sunscreens with inert physical blocking ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide,” says dermatologist Yasmine Kirkorian, MD, the interim chief of dermatology at Children’s National Health System in Washington DC.
Chemical-based sunscreens can be irritating to sensitive skin, like a baby’s skin, but irritation is much less common with a mineral blocker, says Cheryl Bayart, MD, a pediatric dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic.
She suggests reading the labels carefully to check the ingredients, but don’t worry too much about who the product is marketed toward. “They do not have to say ‘baby’ on the label,” Bayart says.
Another tip: don’t rely on sunscreen as the only way to protect that sensitive baby skin.
“Sunscreen is safe to use on babies but should not be the primary method of protection,” says Kirkorian.
Says dermatologist Marie Hayag, MD, founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics, “Shade is the best way to shield your baby from the sun, especially if he or she is younger than six months old. Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible, and if you can’t find shade, create your own, using an umbrella, canopy or the hood of a stroller.”
Sun-protective clothing and hats also receive an enthusiastic thumbs up from dermatologists, since they cover a lot of skin and don’t require you to remember to reapply.
Best baby sunscreens
In general, try to stick to mineral sunscreens that work as a physical barrier to the sun, says Bayart.
Here are a few sunscreens to try:
Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
This lotion is a broad-spectrum sunscreen that just contains zinc oxide. It’s water resistant up to 80 minutes. ($33 for a three-pack, Amazon.com)
Baby Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion-Fragrance Free.
As the name suggests, this product is a mineral-based sunscreen—it contains zinc oxide. It’s dye-free, fragrance-free, and free of chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, although it does contain some other ingredients like coconut oil and shea butter that are intended to be moisturizing. ($14, Amazon.com)
Baby Bum Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Stick-Fragrance Free
Sometimes it’s easier to use a stick to apply sunscreen to areas like the face, nose and ears. This product is the stick version of the Baby Bum Mineral SPF 50 lotion, it’s also a broad-spectrum product with zinc oxide as active ingredient. ($9.99, Sunbum.com)
Hello Bello SPF 50 Sunscreen Mineral Lotion
Hypoallergenic and water resistant for 80 minutes, this product contains zinc oxide as its active ingredient. ($10, HelloBello.com)
Blue Lizard Baby Mineral Sunscreen
The maker of this zinc/titanium mineral sunscreen promises that it will “protect baby-soft skin.” It’s also fragrance-free, with an SPF of 30. ($14, Amazon.com)
California Baby Super Sensitive™ Broad Spectrum SPF 30+ Sunscreen
This broad-spectrum sunscreen is fragrance-free and offers a physical barrier with titanium dioxide. Bonus: you can look up the expiration dates for the various container sizes on their website. ($27, Amazon.com)
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin- Zinc Oxide Sunscreen
This broad-spectrum sunscreen for anyone with sensitive skin is paraben-free, phthalate-free and fragrance-free and features SPF 50 protection. ($18, Amazon.com)
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Oxide Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion
Remember Bayart’s advice about not only relying on products with “baby” on the label? This is an example of a mineral-based sunscreen with a high broad-spectrum SPF that’s not marketed specifically for babies but will work just fine for you and your little one. ($10, Amazon.com)
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Spf 50 Gentle Lotion Mineral Sunscreen
Another broad-spectrum SPF product, this sunscreen is designed to provide physical protection with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to people with sensitive skin. It’s also intended to be water resistant for up to 80 minutes. ($30, Amazon.com)
All Good Kids Mineral Sunscreen
Broad-spectrum, SPF 30 coverage and water resistant for 80 minutes, this sunscreen is made with chamomile, which is supposed to be soothing to sensitive skin. The active ingredient is zinc oxide. ($16, allgoodproducts.com)
One final note: be mindful about how much time you and your baby spend in the sun. It can be easy to get overheated or dehydrated. Sunscreens should be used for sun protection and not as a reason to stay in the sun longer.