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You CAN Put Sunscreen on Babies Safely – Best Choices Here!

As parents, we want to do what’s best for our kids. It’s important to find safe sunscreens for infants under 6 months. Here are the best organic and natural sunscreens for babies. 

Safe sunscreen for infants under 6 months

Because of all my work finding the best natural sunscreens for you guys, I get asked a LOT about safe sunscreens for babies and what the best choice is for those tiny bodies, especially parents whose babies have struggled with sensitive skin, reactions to other sunscreens and tender eczema.

I have plenty of thoughts! It’s been a journey for me over the years for sure, and I want to help you avoid the health and environmental mistakes I made and not waste money on brands that just don’t work.

Sunscreens for Babies Under 6 Months

I Used to Put Sunscreen On My Baby Every Day!

When I was a mother of one child in 2006, the summer that he was just over one year old, he got breakfast, clothing, and (chemical) sunscreen every morning. I cringe at the thought now that I know the risks of chemical sunscreen and how sunscreen works, especially when applied so early before even getting into the sun (and we had a very shady yard! Ugh!).

How times have changed.

John gets sunshine for jaundice

When baby number three was born in mid-August of 2011, we purposely took him outside to “lay out” in the sunshine without clothing on for about 10-15 minutes at a time to help get his mild jaundice out. With my big kids nowadays, we value a little sun and only use sunscreen when the duration and timing of their sun exposure calls for it (over 30 minutes, between 11a-3p or so).

Sunscreen Alternatives for Babies 

It begs the question: Should babies under 6 months be in the sun at all? Should all the same rules apply to sunscreening their soft baby flesh like we do older children, or are there side effects to sun OR sunscreen that we need to consider???

So many babies nowadays are suffering from eczema, and everything put on the skin becomes incredibly important – finding the best sunscreen for infant skin is something I’m so happy to help you with!!

Will You Let Your Baby Get Sunshine?

baby girl on the beach

In general, I wouldn’t really bother with sunscreen for an infant as I’d prefer to balance shade and a little bit of sun exposure for a healthy dose of Vitamin D – but if I couldn’t keep that baby skin out of the midday sun for whatever reason, maybe a boating trip, I’d like to know my options for safe sunscreens.

Is There a Safe Sunscreen for Infants? 

Consider this: almost all sunscreen (definitely all chemical sunscreen) states on the bottle that it’s not meant for children under six months old. That makes our job as parents of infants tricky when we want them to be safe in the sun!

What that really means is that the ingredients haven’t been tested on babies, since doing research on babies is pretty frowned upon.

Bottom line: I wouldn’t let ANY of those chemical sunscreens touch any of my babies’ skin, even when those “babies” are teenagers.

So what is a safe sunscreen option for infants under 6 months short of keeping them shaded 90% of the time?

NATURAL BABY CARE COURSE

Genevieve from Mama Natural offers great week 2 week pregnancy updates. I wish I had these when I was pregnant!
 

I’m so happy to introduce you to Genevieve from Mama Natural. I loved her video series for years before I met her and I’m proud now that our families have become dear friends. She’s such a sweet, genuine woman!

Not only do I love her weekly pregnancy updates, but she is now offering a Natural Baby Care Course. I wish I had this with mine!

Imagine having access to a team of expert health professionals in your home, whenever you need them, as you raise your newborn.

  • A holistic pediatrician to give you tips on what to feed your baby.
  • A board certified lactation consultant to help you master breastfeeding.
  • And a firefighter / CPR instructor to make you aware and prepared.

This is a masterclass in everyday baby care. You’ll be supported for ALL the challenges that come up with baby in this program.

  • It’s easy to access. Watch the classes on your own schedule. No traveling across town after a long day at work.
  • It’s comfortable. Learn in the privacy of your own home—no sterile classrooms filled with rows of uncomfortable chairs. Simply curl up in your favorite spot and soak it all in.
  • It’s fast, but comprehensive. Other baby care courses speed through the most important topics to cover it all. We don’t do that. Instead, we unpack all of the issues that come up postpartum, but we do so in small chunks so you can squeeze the education into your busy life.
  • It’s affordable. Our course is priced lower than in-person classes and less than most online alternatives as well.

More of a book person? You must check out Genevieve’s week-by-week Guide to Pregnancy & Childbirth. It’s the natural answer to “What to Expect” and soooo comprehensive and beautiful!!

 

Sunscreens for Infants Under 6 Months

Best, Safest Natural Sunscreens for Babies (even under 6 months!)

A Moment of Clarity – How The Best Sunscreen for Babies Emerged…

When our family first began testing 120+ natural sunscreens back in 2010 for this massive natural sunscreen review, I had so many that seemed “fine” that I wasn’t sure how I’d ever write up the post recommending a few at the top of the list. (I add to the review every year and will have over 100 in 2018!!!)

I finally had an “aha!” moment in the midst of all the bottles and tubes of lotion when my cousin asked me if I had one that she could put on her then 3-month-old son for a trip around the lake on a boat (a good example of not really being able to avoid sun exposure).

Within seconds of pondering, it was clear to me that there were only two sunscreens I would choose for an infant.

The active ingredient had to be zinc oxide, of course. Most of the ‘screens we were testing used either zinc or titanium dioxide as their active ingredients, and many relied on a mix of the two. Zinc oxide is the only one that has been tested to be safe on infants, however – it’s the same thing that makes most diaper creams both white and effective.

At the time, Melansol and Kabana were the only two brands I was testing that fit those criteria, and Kabana had fewer and cleaner ingredients (plus the eucalyptus oil in the Melansol gave my aunt a wheezing attack, quickly X-ing it off my short list!). I gave her our tube of Kabana and told her to keep it, and ever since, Kabana has remained my top choice.

BUT I’ve been so grateful to see over the years that sooooo many new brands are coming out with very safe, effective mineral sunscreens, and national brands are adding zinc-only versions as well. Hooray for progress! Don’t miss following my review every year as we add more options to the list, although the “top recommended” section always remains pretty exclusive.

Criteria for Best Natural Sunscreens for Babies and Toddlers

coolibar hat vs cheapie

If you’re wondering whether a tube of sunscreen in your home would be safe for tiny babes, here are some recommendations to assess:

  1. The only active ingredient should be zinc oxide.
  2. The “other ingredients” should be things you recognize, not strange, long chemical names and especially not parabens.
  3. There should be some antioxidants, the more the better: carrot oil, Vitamin E, green tea, sunflower oil, shea butter, and more.
    • Essential oils can be tricky for infants safety-wise, so I’d actually recommend none of those, just to be on the safe side.
  4. The zinc oxide needs to be NON NANO and UNCOATED. See more below.

Natural Sunscreen for Babies: Zinc Oxide

Zinc Oxide = Free Radicals??? You’re Kidding Me!

Natural Mineral Sunscreen texture

I was visibly upset when I read an email newsletter a few years ago about the dangers of sunscreen and health benefits of sunshine. I agree with all that – but this company was saying that even mineral sunscreens are dangerous, and made this claim, without citation:

Research shows that zinc oxide sunscreens “potentially generate free radicals upon sun exposure.”

That’s what I have been saying about chemical sunscreens for years but I hadn’t heard it about zinc, and I was ticked off. A little more digging (thankfully) eased my mind.

The citation should have been from Dr. Yinfa Ma’s 2009 research out of Missouri S&T, which did find exactly those results.

However – the research was not on just any zinc oxide, but only studied nano particles of zinc, examined on lung tissue (how often do your lungs see the sun?), and the cells used were not in a human but in a petri dish (in vitro).

The results of the study are startling and important, and more research needs to be done – hopefully on skin cells, please, and in vivo (in a human being) as soon as possible. There’s simply not enough research on “coated” zinc oxide for me to use it on an infant.

John needs a little sunshine for baby jaundice

For now, even Dr. Ma recommends continuing to use sunscreen while also trying to avoid the sun when possible. A 2010 study in the Journal of Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences stated that “based on data from internationally-recognized guideline studies and current 20+ year history of human use is that nano-structured titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are safe,” and that the “risk for humans…is considered negligible.”

Some even conjecture that not only are nano particles not harmful, but they may in fact may provide better coverage and therefore protection from the sun.

The good news is that the 2010 human safety review also states that even nano zinc doesn’t really penetrate the skin more than normally sized zinc particles, so that’s one of the reasons for which I used to avoid nano particles off the table.

Don’t you love how you can find credible sources for every side of every issue?

In this case, for an infant in particular but also for my own family, I’m choosing to stick with non-nano, non-coated zinc oxide sunscreens. I’d rather lean toward what has been used for a longer time and more tested rather than the “new and probably not harmful” formulations with the smaller particles. We may not know what we don’t know, you know?

BUY Kabana Here

What is your favorite sunscreen for infants under 6 months? Have you tried any?

Too much to look through right now?

I organized alllll the sunscreens we reviewed in their recommendation category – one page at-a-glance to find out what is safe to buy AND works! Print it or save to your phone for reference!

The guide also includes answers to questions people ask me all the time:

  • Which brand rubs in the clearest?
  • What’s the best for all day outdoor sports?
  • How do I save money on natural sunscreens?
  • What looks good on ladies’ faces?
  • Is there an option that is FAST to apply to wiggly kids?

I’ll send a copy to your email so you can see it right away and find it again later!

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

30 thoughts on “You CAN Put Sunscreen on Babies Safely – Best Choices Here!”

  1. I have been using this on myself and my daughters so far this summer and have been very pleased. It doesn’t have zinc oxide in it, but it does work well and rubs in very easily. Would love to hear what you think about it. https://www.earthley.com/product/sun-shield/

    1. Hanna,

      Wow…that’s really interesting! I would love to see that product go through FDA testing for SPF to see what it really comes out with. I’ve heard that things like raspberry seed oil have an SPF, but I wonder how it all comes together numerically. I’m glad you’re enjoying it!
      🙂 Katie

      1. Each of the oils have a naturally occurring spf and they protect the skin at the cellular level, not just as a barrier to block all the sun’s rays. We’ve been taught that the sun’s rays are harmful, but there are many benefits to sun exposure and our bodies need the good rays to function well. These oils allow for that to happen without the skin getting burnt (it protects against the harmful rays). I use it on myself and my children any time we are at the beach or pool (any time we’re in direct sun for an extended period of time) and reapply every hour or so.

  2. Thanks for the reviews and recommendations. When I was a first-time mom (11 years ago) I did not even think about reading the bottle and put some sunscreen on my under 6-month old…she immediately started crying until I washed it off…something in there severely irritated her skin. Thankfully, now I am much more educated and conscientious about what I put on my children. We have a very shaded backyard, so I don’t put sunscreen on my kids when we’re at home. For years, though, when we are going to be out in the sun, I just use extra virgin cold pressed coconut oil. It needs a chance to soak into the skin before sun exposure to be effective. My kids can be out in the sun for a few hours without burning, but they do still tan with the coconut oil.

    1. When skin tans, it is being damaged at the cellular level. This is why tanning beds are not recommended.

  3. I use the ecoLogical baby sunscreen you reviewed…I had thought it was a favorite back then but maybe I misread. For whatever reason, it’s what I picked for my baby (now two). I’ve only used it once on my second baby, going berry picking when his legs were sticking out of the carrier on a hot day. I can’t remember the ingredients but now I’ll have to check – I thought it was just non-nano zinc as the active ingredient!

      1. Oh no! Glad I wasn’t missing something though! At least I have two bottles since we hardly use it (maybe that means we need to get out more!). Congratulations on your pregnancy! I don’t know HOW I missed that but I am so excited for you! What a blessing!
        Just for the record, I had both of mine at home so far and we LOVED it 🙂 Good luck making a decision!

  4. A CONCEPT TO CONCIDER:

    Ultraviolet A (UVA) – Considered the unhealthy wavelength because it penetrates your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage. Sunblocks containing SPF filter out the beneficial UVB, not these cancer-causing UVAs, unless they also contain a UVA blocking ingredient.
    As a result, wearing sunscreen may prevent you from burning, as excessive UVBs are the chief cause of sunburn, but you still receive a large amount of skin-damaging radiation. Moreover, UVA rays are constantly available, even on cloudy days. There are likely some benefits to UVA in moderation that we do not fully understand, as there appears to be with many spectrums emitted from the sun.

    Ultraviolet B (UVB) – This is the ‘healthy’ wavelength that helps your skin produce vitamin D. While both UVA and UVB can cause tanning and burning, UVB does so far more rapidly.
    Contrary to UVAs, which are more readily available, UVB rays are low in morning and evening, and high at midday or solar noon, making this the most optimal time for vitamin D production (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.). Ironically, this is the timeframe most mainstream experts warn you to stay out of the sun.

    LINK to dr mercola’s:

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/07/21/sunburn-treatment-prevention.aspx?x_cid=20140721_lead_facebookdoc

    1. Nicole,
      Absolutely, I’ve read all that – and it’s confusing! I think if you can monitor sun exposure and keep it to about 10-20 minutes midday like that, depending on the person’s skin type (some would be a lobster after 15 minutes at noon…), then it’s definitely the best way to go. I try to avoid sunscreen when I think my kids won’t burn, but if they’re going to be out in the sun for 4 hours 10a-2p, I have no choice. Does that make sense? Bottom line is I hear you for sure – nothing is easy, is it?? 🙂 Katie

      1. Katie,
        These comments are from 7 years ago, so I am hoping that you know now that skin is not only damaged when when it burns, but also when it tans.

        1. Yes, true, but we need some Vitamin D exposure, so better to allow our cells to heal from the small damage of a light tan than to never get sunlight. Zinc oxide does block UVA and UVB, and now other chemical sunscreens do as well (although they weren’t required to at the time of these comments). That opens up a whole new can of problematic worms for non-mineral sunscreens: https://www.kitchenstewardship.com/uva-protection-probably-isnt-working/

          Thanks for chiming in, Katie

  5. Lindsey, I had an uncomfortable hospital birth with my second child only because there were no birth centers around. However, my first child was born at a birth center and it was a lovely experience! They had large Jacuzzi tub and I swear it relaxed me thru the process, plus really helped with the pain of contractions! And giving birth in an actual large, comfortable bed certainly improved the experience. It was also very personal, with just two midwives there and no other intruders (residents, etc.) in the room (which happened at the hospital). It’s the way to go if you are blessed with a good center nearby!

  6. Great post.

    Congratulations on your pregnancy, I’m so excited for you. I hope you’re planning lots of pregnancy-related posts. Specifically I’d love to hear what superfoods and/or supplements you take when you’re pregnant and your decisions about your birth. I’m not currently pregnant, but after 3 natural hospitals births, I can’t help thinking that hospitals leave much to be desired. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with a home birth, but maybe a birth center?? Anyway, can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

    1. Thanks Lindsey,
      I probably won’t be writing much about the pregnancy diet because I’m seriously hardly doing anything different than normal, for better or for worse. :/ But at some point you’ll hear about birth decisions… 🙂 Katie
      PS – you can find past posts on pregnancy by flipping through these: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/tag/pregnancy/

  7. One you missed was Ava Anderson’s SPF 30 Sunscreen which was recommended by the Environmental Working Group at http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-wellness/skin/the-most-toxic-sunscreen-and-safer-options. The active ingredient is zinc oxide (23%, non-nanoparticle). Inactive: beeswax (organic), theobroma cacao seed butter (organic cocoa butter), butyrospermum parkii (organic shea butter), olea europaea oil (organic olive oil), simmondsia chinensis (organic jojoba oil). It’s $15.95 for 2.9 oz.

    It also comes in a stick form for the face and a women’s moisturizing cream with SPF 15.

    Lori in NY
    😉

  8. I haven’t needed to use sunscreen on my babies until they’ve been older. I can’t get badger balm where I live so we use lavera.

    I just wanted to give you a heads up that you’ve mixed up in vivo and in vitro.

  9. We use Badger, but for the first time have purchased the ingredients to make our own. (Recipe here: http://wellnessmama.com/2558/homemade-sunscreen/)

    Great post, Katie, thanks for the information! Not to be nit-picky, but you do have 2 terms reversed – in vivo means in a living being. In vitro means in a petri dish (as in in vitro fertilization). Sorry, scientist in me is showing today 🙂

    1. Thanks Andrea – I’ve been collecting DIY sunscreen links to share at some point, I’ll have to add this one. And I even switched those terms – wrong thinking, blah – should have done a quick search to check. Editing now, thanks! 🙂 Katie

  10. Holly Lomelino

    There is a new company out that just started selling an amazing sunscreen with the most excellent ingredients I have seen in a sunscreen. The ingredients are: organic coconut oil, organic unrefined Shea butter, organic jojoba oil, raspberry seed oil, organic beeswax, zinc oxide, and vanilla with coconut notes fragrance oil. That’s it! And it has a SPF of 25-30! It is definitely what I would put one infant if I were having him out in the sun.

    Check it out at www.radiantlyyou.com/hollylomelino

  11. We’re using ThinkBaby this year. I’m still on our first tube because we also try to avoid needing it, but I did use it once on our little man before he hit 6 months.

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