Which baby sunscreens are best?
Protecting your skin from UV rays is essential when spending time in the sun. Too much unprotected exposure can lead to cancer, premature aging and other forms of skin damage. Sun protection is even more vital in babies because their skin is thinner and more prone to burning.
When choosing sunscreen for a baby, you need to think about more than just SPF. Baby skin is much more sensitive to irritants, so you’ll need to pay close attention to the ingredients. That’s why many people opt for a chemical-free option like Thinkbaby 50 SPF Mineral Sunscreen.
What to know before you buy baby sunscreen
Recommended age for baby sunscreen
According to the FDA, you should avoid using sunscreen on babies younger than 6-months-old. This is because newborns and infants are more prone to allergic reactions and side effects like rashes or eczema from products applied to their skin. Instead, it is recommended to keep infants out of direct sunlight through the use of physical shades such as umbrellas, canopies and protective clothing. If using protective clothing, make sure it provides complete coverage and doesn’t leave any areas exposed.
Forms of baby sunscreen
Just like with adult sunscreen, baby sunscreen is available in several forms.
- Lotions are one of the most popular choices because they are easy to spread and absorb quickly into the skin. They also tend to be affordable.
- Spray sunscreens offer similar properties to lotions in that they are inexpensive and absorb quickly. Many also find them easier to apply. That said, it is best only to use pump-style spray sunscreens and avoid aerosols, so you don’t risk your baby inhaling any particles.
- Stick sunscreens are similar to stick deodorants and let you apply sunscreen without getting it all over your hands. This can make for a less messy application process and also makes precision application a bit easier. Unfortunately, stick sunscreens are the most expensive option.
Features to look for in quality baby sunscreen
Sunscreens use several active ingredients to block UV rays, but they all broadly fall into one of two categories of mineral or chemical. Mineral sunscreens use either zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or both as their active ingredients, and they work by creating a physical barrier to block UV rays. The downside of mineral sunscreens is that they can be difficult to spread evenly and leave behind a noticeable white cast on the skin.
Chemical sunscreens use avobenzone, oxybenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene or octinoxate. All of these work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays and then releasing the rays out of the body as heat. Chemical sunscreens tend to be more effective than mineral sunscreens. However, they are also more likely to irritate. Because of this, most experts recommend using mineral sunscreens on babies.
Along with the active ingredients, many sunscreens for babies contain a variety of additional ingredients to help nourish or moisturize the skin. These include things like aloe vera, jojoba oil, colloidal oatmeal and coconut oil.
The SPF rating of sunscreen measures how much of the sun’s UV rays it blocks. The higher the number, the more UV rays a particular sunscreen blocks. The most common SPF range for baby sunscreens is 30 to 50, but some have ratings as high as 70 SPF.
Baby skin is much more sensitive than adult skin, which means it is more likely to experience irritation, eczema and allergic reactions. Hypoallergenic formulas are made with gentle ingredients to reduce the chances of this happening.
Not all baby sunscreens are water-resistant so if you plan on taking your baby into the water, make sure to look for an option labeled as water-resistant. Depending on the sunscreen you choose, it should offer anywhere from 40-80 minutes of protection when in the water before it needs to be reapplied.
How much you can expect to spend on baby sunscreen
Most baby sunscreens cost $2-$25 per ounce, with sticks on the higher end of the price spectrum.
Baby sunscreen FAQ
Does baby sunscreen harm coral reefs?
A. If you are concerned about harming coral reefs, it is best to stick with mineral sunscreens. Most of the active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens have been shown to cause coral reef bleaching.
How long before sun exposure should I apply sunscreen to my baby?
A. You should apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before sun exposure, so it has time to fully dry and absorbs into the skin.
What are the best baby sunscreens to buy?
Top baby sunscreen
What you need to know: This chemical-free sunscreen is both reef and baby-skin-friendly, and it carries a high 50 SPF rating to provide optimal protection.
What you’ll love: It contains moisturizing aloe vera and has a light and pleasant fragrance. It is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes too, so you won’t need to reapply it too often.
What you should consider: It leaves the skin looking notably white.
Top baby sunscreen for the money
What you need to know: Aveeno Continuous Protection is touted for being very gentle on the skin and is both sweat and water-resistant.
What you’ll love: It is formulated with colloidal oatmeal, which helps to soothe irritated and itchy skin. Plus, it spreads easier and more evenly than many other mineral sunscreens.
What you should consider: It is difficult to rinse off your hands after applying it and can leave behind a slightly greasy feel.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Neutrogena Pure & Free is a hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formula that is ideal for sensitive baby skin.
What you’ll love: It comes in a stick form that is great for precision application around the face, and it blocks over 98% of UV rays, so your baby will be well protected.
What you should consider: It has a very high per-ounce cost and can leave the skin feeling a little tacky.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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