Anyone else feel utterly overwhelmed by THIS when you hit the stores lately? The choices are ENDLESS!!
Whether you’re still in flurries or the sun is shining, summer is coming! You all know by now that sunscreen is absolutely critical for you and your fam to prevent deadly skin cancer (if not, what rock have you been living under, seriously??). The huge array of options can be super overwhelming.
I’m going to try to simplify things here. There are 3 rules:
- Choose physical over chemical sunscreens.
- Choose creams/lotions over sprays.
- If your choices are limited, still choose some sunscreen over no sunscreen.
In slightly more detail….
Physical vs Chemical
There are 2 ways to block the sun’s damaging rays. One is physical blocking. This includes simple shade or clothing or reflective minerals that you put on your skin. The two primary ones are Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. The other way to decrease UV radiation is with chemical sunscreens. These are ingredients like Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone. Yes, these block UV rays. However, they have not been studied well in humans and in animal models, can be absorbed through the skin – aka, get into the bloodstream and cause problems with endocrine function (thyroid regulation, hormone regulation, blood sugar regulation). Gross.
There is an awesome guide for brand-to-brand ratings here EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens. Our family’s go-to’s are:
Easy to find at Target and Amazon, goes on nicely, badass bottle (I’m a sucker for good marketing). Sport and Baby versions available. Stick version convenient for little faces.
No, I don’t just love this because it says “California Baby” (ok maybe a little), it’s also ultra-sensitive for the rashiest kids. Again, stick version available.
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen because you know the Aussie’s got the sunscreen game DOWN. This goes on easily – not just for babies ;^)
Arbonne is sold directly through independent providers – I get my goods from my awesome niece (she’s an adult, we have a crazy big family) Megan Fikes
Elta MD UV Clear Tinted This is the only sunscreen that has EVER not made my face allergic, and with slightly tinted look, is flattering and not white. I wear this every. single. day.
I can hear you now: But lotion is so hard to get on a whining, wiggling kiddddd!!!
Strategy: Before you even get dressed to go wherever fun, sunny place you’re going, apply to your naked child. This way you have a “base layer” in case of wedgies or – if your kids are like mine – unexplained nakedness. Then, just touch up when the clothes come off. Reapply (of course) every 2 hours or when they get out of a body of water and defrost/dry off for a bit.
Spray vs Lotion
When you, as an adult, put on that super-convenient aerosol-spray clear chemical sunscreen, have you ever gotten a *little* of the spray up your nose at the end? And you know how to hold your breath well. Game over for kids – they’re for sure getting it in their nose, eyes, mouth… lungs, stomach. I’m a laid-back parent about dirt, mess, hair dye, the occasional junk-food treat. But chemicals being inhaled and swallowed?? nope.
That being said… there are times and particular children that do require faster application. So IF you must use a spray, top choice is a manual spray bottle with mineral sunscreen, because, the environment. Choice 2 is aerosol mineral sunscreen. Really, just avoid the chemical ones unless it is literally the ONLY way to not have a severely sunburned child.
Final Rule: Some protection is better than nothing.
Questions come up in clinic all the time about “how old does my baby have to be to wear sunscreen?”. The best, safest sun protection for babies is to keep them in the shade. This goes for all ages, actually. Avoid the strongest sun, wear hats and loose layers when you can, seek shade.
This is most applicable for babies that are non-mobile. That is the primary reason that the typical recommendation is to start sunscreen when your baby is 6 months old. That is when most babies start to crawl and shade is less reliable. That being said – if you’re gonna be at a sunny farmer’s market with your 4 month old baby in the Ergo, they might pull their perfect sun-protective hat off and yes, you should put a little swipe of safe, mineral sunscreen on their sweet face and hands and toes if they’re exposed.
And if you’re in a pinch, forgot alllll the sunscreen in the bag (maybe because someone left that bag in the entryway when the kids were being loaded into the car…), and the only sunscreen available is some aerosol Coppertone at the gas-station. Yes. Use the sunscreen. Life is all about minimizing risk and doing the best we can.
Dr. Annie is a married mom of 2, family doctor, amateur blogger and Nerium international independent brand partner. This post is her own opinion, is not sponsored by any products listed and does not replace the personal advice of your own physician.