Ahhh, how wonderful it is to take our beautiful babies to the beach to watch them frolic contentedly in the sand… erm, yeah right!
Let’s not pretend that going to the beach, or even going anywhere with your baby in summer is a sinch. Often there’s sand in every nook and cranny, hat’s/shoes/clothes being thrown off and at some point, a tear or two even! The baby bag is full of random things you don’t end up actually using - and you get crazy sweaty carrying it all to wherever you’re going.
It’s not always like that of course, sometimes there are wonderful days full of sun, laughter and games - but generally, your mental priority list looks something like: Number 1: Slop sunscreen on the baby quickly, before they notice and have a meltdown.
Why is it important to protect babies and toddlers skin from the sun?
Most of us know how important it is to protect our skin from too much sun exposure. Our skin contains a pigment called melanin, which we produce more of when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. This has the effect of gradually making our skin darker, sometimes giving us what we refer to as a “tan”, but if we’re out in the sun too long without protection, it will lead to burning.
Some of us have naturally more melanin than others, but the fairer your skin, the less natural melanin you have. Regardless, skin of any colour can get sunburned.
Babies and toddlers, especially those with fair skin, are the most at risk of sunburn. Young skin hasn’t had a chance to build up any natural protection in the form of melanin, so exposing it in direct sunlight can often lead to sunburn sooner than it would in an adult.
It’s not only direct sunlight that can cause sunburn. You can get sunburned on cloudy days, or even when the sun reflects on you from snow, sand, water or buildings.
Babies and sunscreen
Apart from widely available accessories like sun hats, parasols, UV blocking beach tents and clothing, the best way to protect babies and toddlers from the sun is with sunscreen.
Of course, babies and toddlers skin can be sensitive, and many sunscreens contain a mix of different chemicals, fragrances and other ingredients that can irritate our little one’s skin. Many parents prefer to use a sunscreen with natural ingredients and less artificial fragrance because it’s gentler on a baby’s skin.
What is natural sunscreen for babies and toddlers?
When people say “natural sunscreen” what do they mean? Usually, what they mean are mineral-based sunscreens that don’t include oxybenzone.
Oxybenzone is a bit controversial. The way Oxybenzone works is like this: “Oxybenzone is a benzophenone derivative used as a sunscreen agent. It absorbs UVB and UVA II rays, resulting in a photochemical excitation and absorption of energy.” - Pubchem.
It has been found, however, to cause coral bleaching and coral death - with some parts of the world following in Hawaii's footsteps who are due to ban it by 2021. Many experts believe more research into the effect of Oxybenzone on the skin is needed, as there are worries it may be absorbed by the skin and have potentially harmful effects on hormones, and trigger allergies.
List of natural sunscreens for babies and toddlers
A list of sunscreens are published every year by the Environmental Working Group. The list is created based on the “efficacy and the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in the product - not the product itself - compared to other sunscreens.
Not all of them are available in the UK so we picked up three from the list with the best scores and the most competitive price points:
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Zinc Oxide Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
Available widely online and in stores at a reasonable price.
Babo Botanicals Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
This sunscreen is available from iHerb. There are also other products in the range at different price points.
Badger Active Baby Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30
The Badger and Badger Kids range all scored really well on the list. They’re widely available and great value, coming in on one of the lowest price points.