Oh how babies love the beach! The wind tickles their tiny toes and makes them giggle; the sand is fun to sift through with chubby little hands; the ocean is a source of endless mystery and amusement. Not so amusing, however, is a baby with a sunburn. Not only can a burn cause temporary discomfort, but the damage to tender skin also can have long-term repercussions, and repeated burns can result in lesions and even skin cancer.
This is why choosing the right sunscreen is so important—whether baby is beach-bound or will be splashing around in the pool. In fact, a better-safe-than-sorry approach is to apply sunscreen every day, even if you’re not sure your little one will be outside for long periods of time.The question is, which sunscreen is best for your baby? Here’s an easy-to-follow buying guide.
Broad spectrum, baby!
Sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays are considered “broad spectrum,” and are definitely the right choice for children as well as adults. California Baby SPF 30 Plus fits the broad spectrum bill, and it’s also non-chemical, PABA-free and free of common allergens. If you’re looking for a fragrance-free broad spectrum option, Earth’s Best makes a 30 SPF baby sunblock that is also hypoallergenic and paraben free.
The stink about zinc (and titanium)
Some experts recommend avoiding products that have “nanoparticles” of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, because these ingredients are thought to pass through the skin more easily than when these ingredients are “micronized.” If this is something you worry about, you can feel good about spritzing baby with Kiss My Face Sunspray Lotion, which is a nanoparticle-free product only containing 1.7% zinc oxide; other active ingredients are octinoxate and octisalate.
Sorting through the SPF debate
Most dermatologists will agree that once you’re protected by a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30, you’re adequately covered—raising the question of whether products that advertise an SPF of “50 plus” are necessary. However, for any sunscreen to work, it has to be applied properly, which means:
- Apply an ounce of product to your baby’s skin 15 minutes before leaving the house
- Use the product on all areas of the skin not covered by clothes
- Reapply every 2 hours
Just in case you don’t follow these rules perfectly every single time, you might feel that it’s better safe than sorry to rely on a product like Think Baby ThinkSport For Kids, which has an SPF of 50 plus, or Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, which has an SPF of 55.
Of course, there’s no better “sunblock” than a floppy hat and lightweight clothing that has long sleeves. As cute as a chubby little baby in a bikini or swim trunks might be, your best bet would be to make sure baby is thoroughly covered whenever you take her outdoors—but be sure to take lots of pictures indoors of the mini summer fashion show!
Jorie Mark is the Creative Director of Vitacost.com and mother to three children, ages 2 to 10.