incredible infant

headline 2011

Is Your Baby Sunscreen a Sultan?
...or a Sham?

I counted out eight different types of baby sunscreen at the checkout counter in Target last week. And every last one of them was taunting me.

Good mothers use sunscreen...So you better buy me.
Yes, yes, I know... But there are eight of you, and I only have one baby.

Which one should I choose? What makes each different? Does it even matter? Or is it the same white stuff in a different colored bottle?

baby sunscreen 5

It may be time for some baby sunscreen mythbusting.

Well, this year I've rebelled. I'm tired of crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. It's time for...research. {cue dramatic music}

I want to know. What separates the baby sunscreen sultans from the down-out shams? It's time to go label digging and library reading.

What you're reading here are the guidelines I came up with to help me make a wise decision, rather than a random guilt pick.

Here's what I'm offering:

The Absolutely Unbendable, Must-Have Rules
For a Great Baby Sunscreen

Unfortunately, not all baby sunscreens are considered equal. There's a wide spectrum of formulas, fragrances...even methodology that can either provide you with a cheap greasy smear, or a moisturizing battle-barrier.

And it all starts with labeling. Here's the keywords you want to see printed somewhere. Don't take these all-or-nothing. If your sunscreen has most of these, consider that a pass.
  • A Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15. The higher the SPF, the more UVB ray protection the sunscreen has. If you're curious, you can check your local area's UV Index to see how much protection you'll need.
  • Specially formulated for babies. Babies have less melanin in their skin, making them more sensitive that us thick-skinned adults. In an absolute bind, if you can't find one that says "for babies" printed on it, choose one that's at least formulated for kids.
  • A far-off expiration date. Yes, that bottle of baby sunscreen you purchased for your first baby 5 years ago is no good. Time for a new one.
  • Offers "broad spectrum" coverage. This means that the sunscreen will block UVA and UVB rays.
  • Is PABA-Free. The old-fashioned PABA formula has been linked to skin irritation. Who wants a cranky baby at the beach?
  • Uses zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These are broad-spectrum all natural ingredients that sit on the top of your baby's skin. Since they are not absorbed, there is very little chance of an allergic reaction. Another major bonus with using these ingredients, is that you don't have to wait the required 30 minutes before going outside that you do when you use a traditional chemical sunscreen. Put it on and jump outside. The negative with these miracle oxides is that they are not easy to find in stores. Fortunately, the web is another matter.

Side Note:The UK, Ireland, and Australia use the Boots Star Rating System. This system can also be seen on some sunscreens here in the US (although it is not mandatory in the US). One star meaning low protection and 5 stars meaning high. However, this system is subjective to the amount of coverage (SPF) in the bottle. A 5-star SPF8 actually has more coverage than a 3-star SPF15 lotion. So always look at the rating in terms of the SPF coverage when using the star system.

Which of These Top 3 Baby Sunscreen Myths Do You Believe?
(Mine Was Number Three...)

baby sunscreen

Why is he out in the sun, thrilled, but naked?
Because his mom was confident
in a wise choice.

I consider myself a fairly educated mother. (In fact, I have a "best mom in the world" mug to prove it.) However, when it comes to the science of sun protection, my ignorance is astounding.

For example, did you know that it takes only one blistering sunburn in childhood to more than double your chances of developing skin cancer later in life?

Youch. And that is NOT one of the myths I uncovered. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that one's true.

Here are the myths I found. (Brace yourself. Conviction is coming.)

number one

Myth #1: The best time to use baby sunscreen is on hot summer days.

Actually, it's possible for the cooler, cloudier days to be more dangerous! It's not the shining rays that are so harmful to skin. It's the unseen ultraviolet (UV) rays that do the most damage.

Let me ask you:
  • Which days are you more likely to be outside longer? The hot, sticky, sun-heavy days that leave you exhausted? or the breezier, hazy days that leave you itching for a walk?
  • Which days are you more likely to remember to put on the baby sunscreen? Days when sunglasses cease to be an accessory? or when it takes me 20 minutes outside to even realize you've forgotten them?

It's easy to remember to put on the sunscreen for the 1-hour trip to the beach on a super hot day. But for 3-hour playdates in the breezy backyard? Not so much.

Don't forget, also, that the higher your altitude, the less atmosphere you have to bounce away rays. Baby sunscreen is even more important to add to your infant's daily skin care routine. Stock up for all year long.

number two

Myth #2: Using a baby sun hat is just as effective as infant sunscreen.

Surely you've thought this one Crap. Lost the baby sun lotion again. I'll just grab a sun hat and we're good to go. (Does it sound like I've done this before? 'Cause I have...)

Yes, a sun hat is important. It's a vital first-layer defense. But it's not sufficient. Your baby needs more.

UV rays are tricky little buggers. They like to bounce off sand, water, snow, rotund and hairy beach bodies...pretty much anything. For this reason, on-the-skin protection is vital. So unless you're dressing your infant in a turtleneck and chaps in July, a really good sunscreen is absolutely required.

Don't guess. Assume you should always be using infant sunscreen on your baby. I'm a busy mom. Just like you. I don't need another thing to freak out about. So I keep my sun protection routine as low-key as possible.

I have baby sunscreen (and my sunscreen) in the car, by the back door, and in the diaper bag. I put moisturizing infant sunscreen on Isabella when we get ready in the morning and when I'm putting her in the car seat or stroller to go out. Trust me. She's more wiggle-proof that way. smiley

number three

Myth #3: Babies under 6 months should not use sunscreen.

Technically, this is only a half-myth. It's based on the very TRUE recommendation that infants under 6 months old should have little (to no) sun exposure. Their new skin doesn't have melanin to put up a good fight. (Yes, this applies to darker-skinned babies as well.)

However, unless you plan on living in a cave for 6-months, and either send your hubby out to scavenge up food or discover my secret, you're going to have to take that newborn out of the house at some point.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently revised their baby sunscreen guidelines to provide for these exceptions:

    Use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands, if protective clothing and shade are not available.

Following my baby sunscreen rules becomes even more important for newborns. The natural oxides will protect the skin, without being absorbed into it. Chemical sunscreens soak into the epidermus (first skin layer). Not good for sensitive little nebworn skin.

How to Administer the Baby Sunscreen Allergy Test

baby sunscreen2

Always test a new baby sunscreen on a small area first.
His chubby little legs will thank you for it.

Before you put any kind of lotion or cream on your baby, you should always test it first to make sure she won't have an allergic reaction. First, place a small amount on a small area of your baby's body (like her back). Wait 30 minutes.

If a rash develops, your baby is allergic to something in that sunscreen. (And aren't you glad you tested first?!!)

Rinse the area well with warm soapy water and allow to air dry. Then try a different area with a different brand. My top recommendations for baby sunscreens are all natural, greatly reducing the chance that there will be an allergic reaction.

No rash? Great! Rub the sunscreen on all the exposed areas: face, nose (avoiding the eyes), ears, neck, hands, arms, legs (back of knees), and feet.

Be very careful around the eyes. If you're using a spray sunscreen, spray it on your hands, and then wipe on the face. Or use a sunscreen stick instead.

Traditional sunscreens should be applied about 30 minutes before going outside and then re-applied every 1.5 to 2 hours. (Sorry, there is simply no such thing as 100% waterproof for your entire day's activities.) All natural infant sunscreens (like my personal top 5) can be applied right before going outside.

The Sultans of Sunscreens:
My Top 5 Brands That Obey All The Rules

Here are the top five brands of baby sun lotion that meet all my qualifications for a wise purchase. Honestly, I float between all five brands, depending on what's available at what price that year. They are all high-quality and I feel very comfortable recommending them.

If you want to see more details on a particular brand, click on the picture for ingredient lists and other mom reviews. I've linked them to stores I buy them from. (I've never been able to find them at my local Target or Walmart...but who knows? You could get lucky!)

I'm sure there are other brands out there that obey my rules. If you know of one, please let me know. I'd love to include it here as another option!

baby sunscreen california
divider tree

California Baby Brand Baby Sun Lotion

California Baby is a brand that is well-established for being good-for-skin and good-for-baby. Many parents who have struggled finding formulas that don't irritate their baby's skin find success with California Baby. Their fragrance-free formula is especially gentle and dermatologist recommended.

If you live in a humid area, you may want to peek at their Citronella Sunscreen. It's not a repellant, but instead uses Japanese Green Tea (antioxidant), lemongrass, citronella, and cedar to soothe itchy bug bites and hydrated parched summer skin.

With over 35 different skin care products (including shampoos, creams, soaps...even powders), they have one of the largest collections of all-natural lotions available.
baby sunscreen blanket
divider tree

Baby Blanket Infant Sunscreen

Baby Blanket is another great company that makes sunscreen from a specially formulated recipe using Titanium Dioxide instead of the chemicals Octinoxate, Octorcrylene, Oxybenzone, or Octisalate usually found in sunscreens. Besides their bestselling baby sun lotion, they also have a non-greasy scalp spray.

For squirrley infants who fight your sunscreen efforts tooth-and-nail, Baby Blanket's sunscreen stick is a godsend. Not to mention it fits perfectly in my purse!
baby sunscreen eric carle
divider tree

Episencial Baby Sun Lotion with Eric Carle

I like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In fact, I have at least 3 copies floating around the house right now as I type this. But it seems like Eric Carle Art is popping up EVERYWHERE lately.
So when I saw this infant sunscreen I couldn't help my eyes from rolling.

Really, Mr. Carle? Sunscreen??? Are you that desparate to brand yourself?
Still, I had heard good things about Episenical, so I vowed to try and THEN judge. I'm glad I did.

Besides using the natural ingredients I've shared above, it also includes organic sesame, safflower and avocado oils that make moisturizing miracles. Instead of oil-based petroleums to make it water resisitant, the Sunny Sunscreen uses beeswax and organic shea butter.

Touche, Mr. Carle. Touche...
baby sunscreen little twig
divider tree

Little Twig Mineral Baby Sunscreen

Always a favorite among naturalist mothers, Little Twig has wowed us again with their EXTRA-mild (as opposed to just mild, I guess) baby sunscreen lotion. It's gentle enough for my skin-challenged Elena (whose ezcema flares up over the oddest things), which promptly put it in my top 5 baby sunscreen sultan list.
baby sunscreen badger
divider tree

Badger Brand Baby Sunscreen

Badger is a family-owned company in New Hampshire. Their baby sun lotion has everything I mentioned in my rules: including the all-important zinc oxide active ingredient. It's waterproof for the first 40 minutes, and uses organic oils and beeswax to moisturize chubby arms and legs.

They have numerous other baby skin care products, including an all natural anti-bug balm that I've found effective.

related articles

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infant sun

3 Steps to the
Top 10 Baby Sun Hats

I'm amazed that the crap that passes
as a "sun hat" these days.
Don't waste your money.
There are three simple things that launch
these 10 hats into the Smart Buy Category.

4 Easy Sun-Blocking Solutions
for Healthy Baby Skin

The American Skin Cancer Foundation says
that just one burn can double a baby's chances
of getting skin cancer later on in life.
Learn how to easily prevent
baby skin sun damage
infant sun hats smile
baby safety tips 3

How to Win the
Hat War With Your Baby

You've got a great infant sun hat.
How do you get her to wear it?
See my secrets to win the hat war
with your baby.

4 Baby Safety Tips
For the Great Outdoors

You meticulously babyproof inside.
These 4 hotspots require the same safety
attention for your Little Explorer.

Return to the Main Summer Section from Baby Sunscreen

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