Sunscreen may seem like a bit of an afterthought – at best an irritating addition to your routine. The truth is that sunscreen is not only vital in helping to protect against skin cancer, but it can also be nourishing and beneficial to your skin.
This is why there are sunscreens dedicated to certain sections of the population based on age or skin condition. One particularly important group is babies.
Children can be more sensitive to certain products – children and young babies in particular also need dependable protection from the sun. The risk of skin cancer increases with sun exposure overtime – no parent wants to start their little one on the path to an oncologist before they can even talk.
When shopping for sunscreens designed for babies (particularly infants under 6 months of age) you’ll be looking for slightly different things than when buying for yourself or choosing a product the whole family uses.
This only makes sense given that baby’s skin is sensitive and still developing as they grow.
Don’t worry, though. Every member of your family ought to be properly protected from the sun, and this guide will help you find the perfect sunscreen for baby.
I’ll go through some general – but important – guidelines to keep in mind when choosing products, as well as a handful of recommendations to get you going.
After thorough research into requirements for baby sunscreen to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 as the best baby sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 baby sunscreens.
There are a number of important features you should look for in a baby sunscreen. Take note of the following to ensure your young one gets safe and effective sun protection:
Broad spectrum protection
An absolute must when choosing the best sunscreen for babies is to ensure that the product provides broad spectrum protection.
This is indicated by labels like ‘Broad Spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB Protection’ on the packaging. Another way to tell is to take a peek at the active ingredients: physical sunscreen ingredients like zinc or titanium will automatically provide broad spectrum protection.
But why is having broad spectrum sunscreen so important?
The term refers to the spectrum of UV rays that the product is able to protect you from.
You see, the sun’s rays occur across multiple spectrums – the sunlight we see glittering across the surface of a lake is part of the visible spectrum, meaning we can see it with our naked eye.
There are also aspects to sun’s rays that occur on the Ultraviolet Spectrum – UV rays that affect us even though we can’t see them. The two main types of UV rays that we ought to be concerned about in terms of sunscreen protection are UVA and UVB.
UVA rays are, in many aspects, the more dangerous type of UV ray. They are responsible for the accelerated signs of aging, skin cells damage that can become cancerous, and they can even pass through glass.
This means baby in a carseat or near a window can fall victim to skin damage just the same as being out in the front yard without shade.
UVB rays cause the visible skin damage that we are used to recognizing. After prolonged exposure, skin will become reddened or tanned, and may eventually burn and blister if exposed for too long.
This is unpleasant for anyone, but particularly for babies. Not only is it heartbreaking to hear them cry in pain after a bad burn, but What To Expect explains that a bad burn as a baby greatly increases your risk for melanoma later in life.
Both types of UV rays are harmful to the skin, so make sure whatever sunscreen you choose provides high quality, broad spectrum protection.
Best SPF for babies and toddlers
In the interest of preventing those bad burns and protecting your baby’s sensitive skin, it’s also important to choose a sunscreen with a proper SPF (Sun Protection Factor).
It’s all well and good that your sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection, but it still won’t do you any good if the formula isn’t strong enough. SPF helps to measure that.
Theoretically, an SPF 15 product means you’d be able to stay outside 15 times as long without burning than if you’d used no protection at all.
Unfortunately, this way of looking at sunscreens can be misleading. SPF 30 is not twice as strong as SPF 15, and no sunscreen is effective for more than a few hours at a time.
Depending on conditions such as extremely bright/hot sunlight (as the sun is in the middle of the day during warmer months) or lots of water/perspiration, that effectiveness can also be further reduced.
Check out this table below for a more useful way of thinking about SPF ratings. It shows the overall percentage of UVB ray protection respective to each of the listed SPF ratings.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
You may have noticed that the table doesn’t mention UVA rays at all. This is because they are not taken into account when calculating SPF because the SPF rating is only concerned with preventing burns.
In fact, most sunscreens only protect from UVA rays about 30% as well as UVB rays.
SPF 30 is considered optimal protection for most folks, given that anything higher is only going to be at most 2% more effective.
You really only need SPF 50+ if you are very fair or know you are especially sensitive to sunlight – this may apply to babies with fairer skin or conditions like eczema where the integrity of the skin’s surface is compromised.
All in all, may SPF 30 your minimum protection as a rule of thumb and only spring for more coverage if you need it and the price tag isn’t outrageous.
Physical is better than chemical
Type of protection and strength of protection are both important factors – how that protection is achieved is arguably even more crucial when choosing the best sunscreen for toddlers.
You want to be sure, of course, that they won’t get burned. You also want to be sure the ingredients are wholesome enough not to harm that all-too-sensitive skin. To this end, you’ll want to choose physical sunscreens for your child.
Whether or not a sunscreen is deemed physical or chemical depends upon the active ingredients used to provide sun protection to the wearer.
Physical sunscreens are made with zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or a combination of the two.
These work by sitting atop the skin and deflecting away incoming sunlight so that the skin is not harmed. They are effective immediately upon application, and the ingredients are considered to be calming to the skin.
Both zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide broad spectrum protection, but zinc does a better job of shielding from UVA rays.
Chemical sunscreens are made using a combination of: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. These ingredients have been shown to cause allergy with repeated use – the most reactive ingredient being oxybenzone.
Chemical sunscreen is typically easier to apply than a physical sunscreen and is less noticeable after application.
It is not effective for the first 15-20 minutes after application, as it works by soaking down into the skin and absorbing UV rays before they can damage skin. It takes roughly this long for the product to soak into the skin and become effective.
There is some concern that chemical sunscreen can cross into the bloodstream and harm the endocrine system.
At first it may seem unpleasant to switch the admittedly thicker physical sunscreen formulas, if you aren’t used to it.
However, they do have a wide range of benefits – and you won’t have to be concerned about harming your growing child’s endocrine system like you would if you’d used a chemical option.
Choose lotions and sticks over sprays
You may have heard negative talk regarding spray sunscreen, without an explanation as to why this type of sunscreen application isn’t a good idea.
Unfortunately the dangers presented by spray sunscreens are especially relevant to babies and young children, so it’s important to understand why you want to go with stick or lotions application types over these sprays.
Common sense tells us that as long as we choose a healthy, wholesome physical sunscreen for our kids over a chemical version then a spray ought to be fine. In fact, it makes application simpler with squirmy little ones and better enables us as parents to protect our children.
The trouble is that those physical ingredients are just fine for topical application, but certainly not ideal with it comes to sprays. If these physical sunscreen ingredients are inhaled, that’s a much more concentrated form of exposure than putting it on the skin and it can cause toxicity concerns.
The population most at risk for accidental inhalation of sunscreen products also happens to be young kids. Babies are constantly growing and developing, and the last thing parents want is for their well intentioned safety measures to cause harm to this tiny growing bodies.
Unfortunately, the growing body of research against spray sunscreens suggest that is exactly what they do. For best results, stick to a lotion sunscreen.
If you’re worried about getting lotion in baby’s eyes or have a particularly active little one who doesn’t like sitting still while it’s rubbed in, try a sunscreen stick formula for easy application that doesn’t raise safety concerns.
Babies have incredibly sensitive skin, compared to most adults.
Keeping this in mind, it can be beneficial to look for the simplest sunscreen formulas possible, just like you would if choosing a sunscreen for adult sensitive skin issues. To this end, take a moment and peruse the list of inactive ingredients listed for the product you’re considering.
- Does the list seem to be a mile long?
- Are there lots of chemicals?
Generally, the best idea is to go with a formula that has simple ingredients that are easily recognizable – and not too many of them, at that.
There are some exceptions: certain sunscreens will have lots of ingredients in an effort to provide antioxidants or moisturizer for baby, but they may all be natural.
Or, some ingredients may sound complicated but are actually simple. For example, beeswax is a common and relatively harmless ingredient – it’s also almost always listed as ‘cera alba’.
If you see an unfamiliar ingredient don’t automatically assume it’s a harsh chemical that will aggravate your baby’s skin.
There is no hard and fast rule here, folks. No ‘if it has more than 6 ingredients, it’s awful!’ sort of benchmark.
However, keeping an eye on the whole picture of what a sunscreen is made of can help you to choose gentler formulas that are less likely to cause issues with your child’s skin while also protecting them from the sun.
Best Baby Sunscreen Comparison
|Babyganics Mineral Stick||Badger Baby Sunscreen||Nurture My Body Baby Organic||Loving Naturals Adorable Baby||COOLA Baby|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (6.7%) & Titanium Dioxide (7.9%)||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)||Zinc Oxide (25.0%)||Zinc Oxide (24.7%)||Zinc Oxide (4.3%) & Titanium Dioxide (7.3%)|
|Water resistance||80 minutes||40 minutes||None||40 minutes||80 minutes|
5 Best Baby Sunscreens
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best baby sunscreens.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are non-spray applications, and are good for baby’s skin.
This sunscreen stick from Babyganics is my top pick as the best sunscreen for babies’ faces.
It’s the ultimate in convenience, both in terms of keeping it with you and when it’s time to apply. The price includes two of the sticks so you can make a habit of keeping one in the diaper bag and one in your purse so you’ve always got some nearby.
This product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50 using a combination of zinc oxide (6.7%) and titanium dioxide (7.9%).
Considering how small the sticks are, the price is a little bit higher, but overall it’s a great value when you take into account the high SPF and the convenience of being able to precision-apply sunscreen to a teeny tiny face.
This formula is also rated as water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, which should give you extra peace of mind if you are planning on taking your little one to splash around in the summer sun.
Perhaps because of the fact that it’s a stick formula for easy application, or because it’s intended to be water resistant, the sunscreen does go on quite thick and will leave a noticeable white cast.
However, if you’re looking for reliable protection rather than a runway-ready toddler this is a great choice.
- High SPF
- Easy-to-apply stick
- Moderately priced
- 80 minutes water resistance
- White cast
- Low concentration active ingredients
Badger baby sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 through the use of only zinc oxide (18.75%) as the active ingredient.
The high concentration of active ingredient is a definite plus, ensuring this sunscreen will work as hard as you do to keep your baby’s skin safe from the sun’s harmful rays.
Zinc oxide is the only sunscreen ingredient approved by the FDA for use in kids under six months of age, so while the Babyganics stick is the overall best pick for this guide, consider Badger’s Baby sunscreen formula the best sunscreen for infants and newborns. (For older kids, check out our guide on the best sunscreen for kids.)
Of course at this young age the best prevention is to keep them in the shade as often as possible, but if you’re going to be outside definitely go with a dependable sunscreen like this one.
The formula is 100% natural and 94% organic, containing only six ingredients outside the of zinc oxide. It’s water resistant for up to 40 minutes as well.
All in all, definitely a dependable and effective sunscreen that you shouldn’t feel hesitant to put on even your youngest babies when sun protection is warranted.
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Simple formula
- Thicker formula
This Baby Organic sunscreen from Nurture My Body is a little bit on the expensive side but you do get a decently sized bottle (4oz) for the price, which is nice.
This is another sunscreen that only uses zinc as the active ingredient, so is a good choice if you baby is under six months of age.
It provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 32 using 25.0% zinc oxide. That is the highest concentration of zinc oxide of any product on this list!
Normally that would mean a thick and somewhat difficult to spread formula but thanks to the short yes surprisingly effective list of inactive ingredients in the formula the lotions goes on nicely and only leave a little bit of a white cast.
In lighter skin tones this may not be noticeable, and users with darker skin tones noted that the effect usually fades in less than twenty minutes.
The only real downside to this product is that it is not water resistant. This mean you’d have to choose something else if you were planning on taking your little one into a pool or to the splash park, etc.
However, considering the short list of ingredients, certified organic formula, and high concentration of zinc, this is a stellar everyday product.
- Certified organic formula
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Fragrance free
- More expensive
- Not water resistant
Adorable Baby by Loving Naturals provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30+ through the use of zinc oxide (24.7%) as the active ingredient.
The packaging proudly proclaims that it was specifically designed for babies, and even includes a cute little cartoon lamb on the bottle.
It’s water resistant for up to 40 minutes, giving you some extra flexibility in terms of when and where the product can be used.
The bottle is 4.3 oz, making it a good value for the money, too. The formula is vegan/cruelty free, without any harsh chemical in the list of inactive ingredients. This is a product you can feel good about buying as a consumer, and good about putting on your little ones as a parent.
Due to the higher concentration of active ingredients, this thicker formula does require a bit of extra rubbing upon application in order to avoid a pronounced white cast.
However, the product isn’t difficult to rub in – the oils added in the formula make it easier to distribute across the skin so even though you have to rub you don’t have to do it very hard
That’s definitely a plus, because with the thinner skin of a baby all that extra might cause irritation if you had to apply a lot of pressure.
- Good value
- Water resistant 40 minutes
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Requires extra rubbing
COOLA’s Baby Sunscreen is another high-SPF option for folks who want to give their babies that extra bit of protection when they’re being exposed to the sun.
This product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50 using a combination of zinc oxide (4.3%) and titanium dioxide (7.3%).
The reason COOLA is last on this list is because, while the price is higher along with the SPF, the actual concentration of active ingredients is lower.
It’s still a great product but this does reduce the value for the money and may make the product cost prohibitive for some.
It is water resistant for 80 minutes, so a good choice for water babies who seem to swim before they master getting around on dry land.
The lotion doesn’t have any added scents which helps to reduce the range of chemicals you’re exposing your child to through skincare products.
This is definitely a great product, particular for babies with sensitive skin or who will be in the water a lot – just remember to reapply frequently so you don’t need to worry about the formula’s lower concentration of active ingredients.
- High SPF
- Low concentration of active ingredients
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful and feel better equipped to make a smart buy when choosing a great sunscreen for your child.
While SimplySunSafe does recommend the Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick SPF 50 as the best baby sunscreen, all of the products listed here are great choices. That being said, based the individual needs of you family you may need to try a few different products before you find whichever sunscreen is best suited to you.
If you need a sunscreen for yourself that’s suited more to adult skin, take a look at the SimplySunSafe guide to the best sunscreen for sun protection.
Do you already have a favorite baby sunscreen and don’t see it listed here? Let me know! I love learning about new products and finding ways to make these guides better and more informative to provide you the best content possible.