We’re all aware of the risks associated with too much sun exposure, including sunburn and skin cancer. But at the same time, we’re becoming more aware of dangerous chemicals. We want to protect our children. So what’s best non-toxic sunscreens for kids?
It’s so easy for babies and young children to get sunburned, even when you think it’s too cool for the sun to be a problem. My oldest’s first Easter happened while we still lived in Georgia. It was only April, but it was still pretty warm.
We were at an Easter egg hunt, and my daughter was wearing a little sweet dress with straps. Despite how cool it was, I was so surprised when she had a sunburn after only an hour or two in April. I felt so awful about her red skin.
That experience was a wake-up call for me. I needed to more carefully protect my little girl from the sun, whether with clean sunscreen for kids or with protective clothing.
And while you might want the best organic sunscreen for babies, it’s important to realize that just because a product is labeled for babies doesn’t mean that it’s really any different from the “adult” sunscreens.
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The problem is, there’s a lot of sunscreens out there. And it can be hard to know which one to pick. That’s why I want to give you the info you need to choose the best non-toxic sunscreens for kids.
Here’s a list of the best natural sunscreen for babies and kids:
Thinkbaby Sunscreen lotion, SPF 50+
Earth Mama Organics Baby Mineral Sunscreen lotion, SPF 40
Earth Mama Organics Baby Mineral Sunscreen face stick, SPF 40
Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50
Babo Botanicals Baby skin mineral sunscreen, SPF 50
Badger Kids Mineral Sunscreen face stick, SPF 35
Badger Baby Sunscreen, SPF 40
Made of organic sunscreen, SPF 30
Pipette mineral sunscreen, SPF 50
Want more details on these natural and organic kid sunscreens? Click here to jump down.
Types of sunscreens
When you walk into your local store, there can be a whole aisle of sunscreens. They all make claims, many saying they’re “baby safe” or the “cleanest sunscreen for kids”… It can be overwhelming! All you want is summer fun for your kids.
Even with all these options, there are really only two main divisions of sunscreen ingredients: mineral and organic (or chemical). With a little bit of science, we can learn the difference in how these two types work, their safety, and how you can tell them apart.
Let’s be clear: If you’re wondering which sunscreen is best without chemicals, remember that there’s no such thing as chemical-free. After all, even water is a chemical.
But some chemicals are certainly safer than others! So read on for the best organic sunblocks for kids.
Organic (or chemical) sunscreens
“Organic” here doesn’t mean the same thing as when you use it talking about organic foods. Instead, it just means that the sunscreens are chemicals made mostly of carbon. Common chemical sunscreens include:
Organic sunscreens work by absorbing UV light (the type of light that causes damage), keeping the light from affecting your skin. When the organic sunscreen absorbs the UV light, it causes a chemical reaction that breaks down the sunscreen.
Often, organic sunscreens seem preferable because they absorb well and feel better. They don’t leave that slimy residue that you might remember from getting sunscreen on as a kid. They can be really lightweight, and they’re easy to put into spray form.
Mineral sunscreens (like this fantastic option) are typically made with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. You can recognize a mineral sunscreen because it has a metal name (like titanium or zinc) in it. When people are asking for “chemical-free” sunscreens, a mineral sunscreen is what they mean (even though that’s a totally inaccurate name).
Titanium dioxide is one of the two main mineral sunscreens, but it doesn’t protect against both UVA and UVB light. So unfortunately, a sunscreen made with titanium dioxide alone is not going to be effective.
Zinc oxide is better because it protects against both UVA and UVB sunlight. Plus, it’s non-toxic.
Mineral sunscreens are considered “physical sunscreens,” because the mineral particles work as tiny mirrors, simply reflecting sun away from your skin. When you wear a mineral sunscreen, there’s no chemical reaction happening on the surface of your skin.
For this reason, mineral sunscreens tend to be better for sensitive skin than chemical ones.
Unfortunately, mineral sunscreens usually feel heavier and thicker, and they don’t rub in as well. You’re more likely to find them in a lotion, although there are some spray formulations now.
Health effects of chemical sunscreens
Because these compounds are reactive (that’s how they work, remember?), they can also cause dangerous reactions in the body.
As always, there’s pros and cons with both organic and mineral sunscreens. When people ask about sunscreen safety, they are usually more concerned about the chemicals in organic sunscreens, particularly one called oxybenzone.
About 4% of the oxybenzone or other organic sunscreens you apply end up being absorbed into your skin, and from there can move into your bloodstream. Human studies have shown that this compound can cross the placenta too, meaning that the unborn child is exposed to it whenever a pregnant mother is.
There is research that shows health effects of oxybenzone in humans. One study showed that women who had higher exposures to oxybenzone were more likely than other women to have boys born about half a week early. Now, of course, this is about 3-4 days, so it’s up to you to decide if this effect is really a problem or not.
There are other studies that show that oxybenzone can negatively affect reproductive function in models such as rat neurons or fish. The caveat, though, is that the oxybenzone was given to the fish or nerve cells at concentrations much higher than you’d actually get from using the sunscreen.
Other chemical sunscreens, including octinoxate and homosalate, can be endocrine disruptors, affecting estrogen, androgen, and progesterone. In addition, some chemical sunscreens can pass through breast milk.
For these reasons – the reproductive effects, the endocrine disruption, AND the danger to marine life, the Environmental Working Group doesn’t recommend chemical sunscreens.
How can you tell the difference between mineral and organic sunscreens?
You may have heard that you can tell if you have an organic sunscreen by the letters “oxy-” in the name. Many times this trick works, but not always! For example, all four of the active ingredients in the bottle shown below are organic sunscreens.
The easier way to tell if you are dealing with an organic or mineral sunscreen is to see whether the name starts with a metal, like zinc or titanium. If so, it’s a mineral sunscreen. Otherwise, it’s organic.
Should you make your own sunscreen?
There are lots of DIY sunscreen recipes out there, and you can buy zinc oxide off Amazon, so… why not just make your own?
It’s really hard to completely homogenize your sunscreen. If there are clumps of zinc oxide, you’re likely to get burned where there are patches of lotion not containing any sunscreen. Zinc oxide really tends to clump really badly, and it’s super hard to disperse.
Some people suggest that coconut oil blocks UV light, but it doesn’t do so well enough to work as sunscreen. Just save yourself and your kids the skin cancer and sunburn risk and buy actual sunscreen.
Organic or mineral sunscreens?
Generally speaking, mineral sunscreens are safer. They don’t absorb into the body like organic sunscreens do, so that keeps them from causing harmful health effects.
One caveat: Spray sunscreens (both organic and mineral) are more dangerous than their lotion counterparts. Although they’re a lot easier to apply, it’s dangerous to inhale them. If you choose a spray sunscreen, tell your child to turn their face away during spraying. Instead of spraying on their face, spray a little into your hand and then rub it on.
Best non-toxic sunscreens for babies and kids
Beware, just because a sunscreen is labeled as a “baby” sunscreen does not make it a mineral sunscreen! There is no real qualifier for “baby” organic sunscreens, so just be aware of ingredients (or choose something on this list if you’re looking for the best non toxic baby sunscreen).
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen lotion, SPF 50
Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen is a great clean sunscreen for kids. This all-natural baby sunscreen uses non-nano zinc oxide as its active ingredient. In addition, the Environmental Working Group gives it a 1 rating (which is really hard to come by).
Thinksafe is BPA free, paraben free, and safe both for your baby and the environment. It also has good protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
In addition, it’s long-lasting, so you won’t have to do frequent reapplications. It applies easily and absorbs well.
Earth Mama Organics Baby Mineral Sunscreen lotion, SPF 40
Earth Mama Organics Baby Mineral Sunscreen is an 70% organic baby sunscreen, and it is one of the best. It uses zinc oxide as its primary sunscreen, but red raspberry seed oil and pomegranate seed oil increases its UV protection.
This sunscreen has also been given a 1 rating from the EWG, and it has no artificial fragrances, chemical sunscreens, or parabens.
Earth Mama Organics Baby Face Stick sunscreen, SPF 40
If you prefer sunscreen in a stick form, Earth Mama also has a face stick that’s SPF 40. It glides on easily and is safe for sensitive skin, with natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, and aloe. Just like the lotion, this stick has a rating of 1 from the EWG.
Be aware, this sunscreen stick is only water resistant for 40 minutes (instead of 80), so you may need to reapply a little more often.
Babybum Sunscreen lotion, SPF 50
Babybum is another zinc-oxide based sunscreen with great ratings from the EWG that is safe for kids. It’s safe for sensitive skin and is paraben free, phthalate free, and fragrance free. Plus, there’s no artificial fragrances or dyes (and the natural scent is lovely).
Babybum broad-spectrum sunscreen stick, SPF 50
Prefer a stick that lasts longer? Babybum’s stick sunscreen lasts 80 minutes, and is vegan, gluten, and dye free. It’s made with zinc oxide, coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter.
This face stick rolls on smoothly and isn’t too thick once it’s on. And because it’s so easy to apply, it’s a great non-toxic sunscreen for toddlers.
Babo Botanicals Baby Skin mineral sunscreen, SPF 50
This 70% organic sunscreen is sheer and lightweight for a mineral sunscreen (which I love). It’s a great clean sunscreen for babies because it’s broad spectrum, zinc oxide formula will protect your baby (and yourself) from both UVA and UVB rays.
Because this sunscreen is so lightweight, it’s actually one of the best non-toxic sunscreens for your face.
Badger Kids Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick, SPF 35
Badger Kids Mineral sunscreen stick gets great reviews for sensitive skin. It’s only made with 9 simple ingredients and has a natural tangerine-vanilla fragrance.
One caveat: Some people have a hard time getting this stick to come off on their kid’s faces. But once it’s on, it rubs in clear.
Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
Badger Baby Sunscreen is also reef-safe and made with zinc oxide. It contains only seven simple ingredients (including sunflower oil, jojoba, and beeswax) and is a 98% organic baby sunscreen. The non-nano zinc oxide means it won’t absorb into baby’s skin.
Overall, this is a great natural baby sunscreen.
Made of Broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30
Another sunscreen with a coveted 1 rating from the EWG, Made Of broad spectrum sunscreen is one of the best organic baby sunscreens out there. It’s free of gluten, phthalates, parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrance.
While Made Of initially goes on white, it rubs in without being greasy. This makes it another great non toxic sunscreen for faces.
Pipette Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
Finally, Pipette Mineral Baby sunscreen is another great non-toxic choice. This sunscreen uses zinc oxide, but is still lightweight and rubs in easily.
Sunscreen application tips for kids
Follow the bottle’s instructions on how long to sit out between application and getting into the water. Sunscreen needs time (like 15-30 minutes) to absorb into the skin. If that time isn’t given, the sunscreen will come off in the water, leaving you unprotected (and potentially causing harm to marine life).
The best thing to do is to put sunscreen on your child before putting their swimsuit on. That way, you don’t accidentally miss some spots trying to get up under a strap or waistline. Plus, that gives more time for the sunscreen to absorb before you go out.
Other ways to protect your child in the sun
The easiest way to avoid sunscreen altogether? Cover more skin on you child with protective clothing. I’ve started buying swimsuits that come with sleeves for my kids. I love doing this, because then I only have to put sunscreen on their little legs and faces. There are cute options for both boys and girls!
Hats are a great way to protect your kids too! They’re especially important if your child has fine hair, because her scalp can get sunburned. These sweet little hats, that come with a chinstrap, help you keep the hat on your little one.
NOTE: Children under six months should not wear sunscreen. Their skin will absorb chemicals more easily than older children’s skin, so sunscreen isn’t safe for them. In addition, it’s easier for young babies to overheat.
Keep young infants covered up with a hat and outfit like (like the ones I show above), or to keep them out of the sun altogether!
Wrapping it up: The best sunscreen for babies
I hope you’ve learned a little science and gotten some helpful information about which natural baby sunscreens. Now that you’re better informed about the best non-toxic sunscreens, go have some fun in the sun!