Sunscreen for Babies? Protecting Your Little One From UV Rays

Your entire world changes when you bring a baby into the world. You start to rethink every aspect of your lifestyle and find yourself worrying about the simplest things that used to be nonfactors. Sun exposure is one of the last things you think about on a regular basis, especially when you’ve grown so accustomed to baking in it to achieve the perfect tan. But when you’ve got a baby attached to your hip, proper protection from damaging UV rays should be at the forefront of your priority list anytime you step out with baby in tow.

Babies are sensitive little beings, so slathering on the wrong sunscreen could do more damage to their delicate skin than you think. Choosing the right sunscreen for your young one can be baffling when you don’t know what to look for and what to avoid, but we’ve got everything you need to know about the safest sunscreens for babies and the many other ways you can protect your baby during the summertime.

Are sunscreens safe for babies?

You’ve always been told by family, friends, and medical professionals to cake on the sunscreen anytime you’re out in the sun, so it’s only natural to want to do the same for your baby when you’re spending family day at the beach. However, this is one of those times where your parental instincts are wrong— that is, if baby is under 6 months old.

Unlike adults and young children, babies are far more prone to heatstroke, dehydration, blisters, infections, and burns caused by sun exposure. This is due to their skin being incredibly thin and underdeveloped. In fact, the most sun exposure damage occurs during childhood. While it is important to do everything to keep babies out of direct sunlight, it’s also important to protect your baby with the right tools when shelter and shade are not available.

According to FDA pediatrician Hari Cheryl Sachs, applying sunscreen to a baby under 6 months old may have negative side effects. “Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults. Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.”

Though many medical theories caution against sunscreen altogether, a recent update to the American Academy of Pediatrics sun protection guidelines declared applying a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF on babies under 6 months to be permissible. In the case that a hat or a long sleeve shirt were not readily available, applying small dabs on baby’s face, hands, and shoulders proved to safe and effective.

When can babies start wearing sunscreen?

There are a number of safe sunscreens for babies on the market, but babies should be older than 6 months before parents begin regular application. Hypersensitive babies under 6 months absorb the chemicals in traditional sunscreens at a higher rate, so sunscreen application for newborns should be a last resort if protective clothing is not readily available.

Parents to babies older than 6 months should still apply baby sunscreen. Keep in mind that your child is still developing, so their skin will still be especially sensitive to UV rays and irritating ingredients alike. To test how a sunscreen will protect your child, apply a small patch on baby’s wrist. If any signs of redness or irritation arise, try another product. Always keep an eye out for any and all product warnings that could save you a lot of headache in the trial and error process.

What kind of sunscreen is safe for babies?

The quest for the perfect sunscreen for babies that protects against UV rays, prevents skin cancer, and soothes your worries is one that takes careful research and keen observation. Mineral sunscreens and organic sunblocks are the safest forms of baby sun protection for newborns under 6 months.

Though terminology is used interchangeably, sunscreen and sunblock are actually two different types of protective lotions. Sunscreen is a chemical based lotion that penetrates the skin and absorbs UVA rays while deflecting harmful UV rays before they contact the epidermis. Sunblock is a thicker lotion that utilizes titanium oxide and zinc oxide to shield against UVB rays. Many sun protection lotion manufacturers use the terms incorrectly, and most even combine the two to offer optimized protection, but it is imperative for parents to understand what’s in a product before applying on baby’s skin.

Whether you prefer sunblock or sunscreen for your child, we recommend selecting mineral based lotions to keep baby safe from dangerous chemicals.

What are the best sunscreens and sunblocks for babies and kids?

No sunny family vacation is complete without some routine sun protection application— but what baby sunscreen is right for your baby? We’ve compiled a list of our favorite sunblocks and sunscreens for babies that will safeguard your little one from the beating sun.

  1. Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen - SPF 30
  2. Thinkbaby Safe Mineral Sunscreen - SPF 50
  3. Coola Baby Mineral Sunscreen - SPF 50
  4. CeraVe Baby Broad Spectrum Sunscreen - SPF 45
  5. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen - SPF 30+
  6. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen - SPF 50
  7. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunblock - SPF 50
  8. Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen - SPF 30
  9. California Baby Super Sensitive Broad Spectrum Sunscreen - SPF 30+
  10. Active Badger Broad Spectrum Sunscreen - SPF 30

What should I look for?

Even with our narrowed-down top ten list, it can feel like the number of baby sun protection options are endless. Protecting your infant against the sun starts with these sunscreen selection tips. You should be on the lookout for:


Mineral sunscreens/sunblocks: Mineral sun protection lotions for babies are a much more skin-friendly option for hypersensitive skin. Without any of the dangerous chemicals in traditional sunscreens, baby will be safer with more natural ingredient-based baby sunscreens.

Broad spectrum labels: The broad spectrum labels mean the product has been tested and approved for effective UVA and UVB protection. Broad spectrum sunscreens for babies with an SPF value of 15 or higher can reduce the risk of skin cancer whereas other non-broad-spectrum baby sunscreens can only prevent sunburns.

Water-resistance: Family beach day means busting out the travel crib and letting baby have some fun in the water. Your sunscreen should be water-resistant so baby can splash and play without any uv protection washing off.

Hypoallergenic and fragrance free labels: Since baby skin is so sensitive, avoiding fragrances and selecting hypoallergenic sunscreens protect best against bad reactions.

SPF 30 or higher: Sunscreens between 30 and 50 are the perfect range for UV protection for babies.

What should I avoid in baby sunscreen?

You should also keep an eye out for certain no-nos on your little one’s sunscreen bottle.

Spray sunscreens: Since you’re aiming to be minimalist with baby’s sunscreen application, a spray sunscreen makes your measurement more difficult. Your child will also be exposed to the many risks associated with inhalation.

Nasty chemicals: Products with retinyl palmitate, parabens, and titanium dioxide nanoparticles should all be avoided. These yucky chemicals get absorbed into the skin.

SPFs higher than 50: According to Dr. Bruce Robinson, “sunscreens over SPF 50 offer little extra protection and can lead to increased incidences of skin irritation. And a higher SPF does not afford you more time in the sun.” With higher SPF numbers, parents are more susceptible to making the mistake of forgoing reapplication under the guise of the higher SPF doing its job for abnormally long periods of time.

What are other tips for protecting babies from the sun?

Life may change when you welcome a baby into your life, but that doesn’t mean baby needs to be confined to the baby bassinet to stay out of harm's way. Instead of fearing for your baby’s well being anytime you step outside, use these helpful tips and tricks to keep baby safe from damaging sun exposure.

●     Shade and shelter

Babies under 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight, so wherever you decide to set up camp for family beach day, be sure to provide shade and shelter for your young one. The Lotus Crib Fun Shade provides maximum protection with UPF50+ to keep your little one safe. 

●     Cover up

Optimize UV protection for baby by dressing her up in long sleeve dresses that cover her sensitive arms and legs. Finish her outfit with a pair of UV-blocking sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat for ultimate sun-safe security. Try to keep baby as covered as possible with loose-fitting clothes so she can still play comfortably and safely.

●     Early sunscreen application

Instead of waiting until baby is in the sun to apply sunscreen, get into the habit of applying sunscreen 20 minutes before exposure. This gives more time to let the active ingredients fully bind to the skin and become effective protectants.

●     Reapply regularly

Set a timer for two hours right after you apply the first layer of baby sunscreen. Continue the same procedure for every two hours baby is out in the sun.

●     Avoid strongest hours

The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so plan your beach day or neighborhood stroll around sunset.