Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Sun Protection: Best Sunscreen for Kids & Babies

Sun protection is crucial for kids and babies due to their sensitive skin and increased vulnerability to harmful UV rays. Prolonged sun exposure can lead to immediate issues like sunburn and long-term problems such as skin cancer and premature aging in adulthood. Non-toxic and eco-friendly sunscreens provide effective protection without harmful chemicals, making them safer for children and the environment. Conventional sunscreens often contain ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which can disrupt hormones and damage marine ecosystems.

Importance of Non-Toxic Sun Protection for Children

Children’s skin is more sensitive and thinner than adult skin, making it more susceptible to sunburn and UV damage. Even a few severe sunburns can significantly increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Sunburn can cause immediate pain, dehydration, and blistering. Long-term sun exposure without protection can lead to premature aging, DNA damage, and an increased risk of various types of skin cancer, including melanoma (AAP Publications)​​. 

Starting sun protection early helps build lifelong habits and significantly reduces the risk of skin damage and cancer. Regular use of sunscreen and protective clothing from a young age ensures better skin health and reduces the cumulative effects of UV exposure.

Comprehensive Sun Protection Strategies to Keep your Kids Safe Outdoors

By implementing comprehensive sun protection strategies, parents can ensure their children are well-protected from harmful UV radiation. The well-rounded approach, combining the use of non-toxic and eco-friendly sunscreens with protective clothing and smart sun habits, will provide the best defense against UV damage and promote healthy skin for life. Note, American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends to limit sunscreen use with small babies under 6 months of age. Do your best to use alternative sun protection approaches recommended below and only use sunscreen when absolutely necessary. 

Using Non-Toxic and Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

Two active ingredients that have GRASE designation, which means, they are "generally recognized as safe and effective":

  1. Zinc Oxide: Provides broad-spectrum protection by physically blocking both UVA and UVB rays. It is gentle on sensitive skin and is not absorbed into the bloodstream, making it safe for young children.
  2. Titanium Dioxide: Another mineral-based ingredient that offers protection against UVB and short-wave UVA rays. It is non-irritating and works by sitting on top of the skin to deflect harmful UV rays.

Both ingredients do not penetrate skin or lead to hormone disruption. 

Ingredients that should be avoided: 

  1. Oxybenzone: Linked to hormone disruption and skin allergies. Studies have shown that it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and may contribute to coral reef bleaching.
  2. Octinoxate: Also associated with hormone disruption and environmental damage. It is known to affect marine ecosystems adversely.
  3. Homosalate: Health concerns - hormone disruption, bioaccumulation in the body. Environmental Concerns - potential aquatic toxicity.
  4. Octocrylene: Health concerns -skin allergies, potential contamination with benzophenone (a carcinogen). Environmental concerns - harm to marine life.
  5. Parabens (Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben): Health concerns - hormone disruption, potential carcinogen. Environmental concerns - bioaccumulation, potential aquatic toxicity.
  6. Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A Palmitate): Health concerns - potential skin damage under sunlight, increased risk of skin tumors. Environmental concerns - potential environmental persistence.
  7. Fragrance (Parfum): Health concerns - allergies, hormone disruption. Environmental concerns - potential aquatic toxicity.
  8. Synthetic Preservatives (e.g., Methylisothiazolinone, Methylchloroisothiazolinone): Health concerns - skin irritation, allergies. Environmental concerns - toxic to aquatic organisms.
  9. Phenoxyethanol: Health concerns - skin irritation, potential neurotoxin. Environmental concerns - potential aquatic toxicity.
  10. PABA (Para-Aminobenzoic Acid): Health concerns - skin irritation, allergic reactions. Environmental concerns - potential environmental persistence.
Boy wearing nature is my playground organic t-shirt using badger non-toxic sunscreen

Application tips: 

  1. Apply 30 minutes before sun exposure: This allows the sunscreen to form a protective layer on the skin. Ensure all exposed areas are covered, including the face, ears, neck, and hands.
  2. Reapply every two hours and after swimming or sweating: Even water-resistant sunscreens need to be reapplied regularly to maintain their effectiveness, especially after swimming or heavy sweating.
  3. Choose lotions and sunscreen sticks over sprays for maximum safety: spray sunscreens tend to have unnecessary and potentially toxic ingredients you'd want to avoid and the sunscreen is more likely to be accidently ingested as particles are inhaled by you and your child. 

    Top Non-Toxic & Eco-Friendly Sunscreens for Kids & Babies

    Badger Kids' Sunscreen SPF 40, or Badger Baby

    This is our top pick! We've used this sunscreen, both versions, with our own son consistently since he was born. Never had any issues with sunburn, when applying consistently and the sunscreen has very minimal and mostly organic ingredients. 

    Non-toxic Eco-friendly sunscreen for kids

    Features:

    • Ingredients: Made with 98% organic ingredients, including zinc oxide, sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E.
    • Certification: USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO, and Leaping Bunny Certified (cruelty-free).
    • Environmental Impact: Biodegradable and reef-friendly, safe for the environment.

    Pros:

    • Gentle and safe for kids', especially babies' sensitive skin.
    • Free from synthetic chemicals, fragrances, dyes, and parabens.
    • Water and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
    • Made with 100% solar power in the USA by a women-owned family business

    Cons:

    • Thicker consistency, which may require more effort to apply evenly.

    Thinkkids SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

    Non-toxic and eco-friendly sunscreen for kids Thinkkids

    Features:

    • Ingredients: Uses non-nano zinc oxide as the active ingredient, along with aloe vera, sunflower oil, and jojoba oil.
    • Certification: EWG Verified for safe ingredients and effectiveness.
    • Environmental Impact: Free from oxybenzone and octinoxate, making it reef-safe.

    Pros:

    • High SPF provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.
    • Absorbs quickly without leaving a greasy residue.
    • Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

    Cons:

    • Higher price point compared to other brands.
    • Slightly thicker texture, which may require thorough rubbing in.

    Earth Mama Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40

    Non-toxic eco-friendly Earth mama sunscreen

    Features:

    • Ingredients: Contains non-nano zinc oxide, organic red raspberry seed oil, and organic pomegranate seed oil.
    • Certification: EWG’s Best Recreational & Baby + Kids Sunscreen, Leaping Bunny Certified.
    • Environmental Impact: Reef-friendly and biodegradable formula.

    Pros:

    • Broad-spectrum SPF 40 protection for UVA/UVB.
    • Water-resistant for up to 40 minutes.
    • Gentle and moisturizing, suitable for sensitive skin.
    • Made by a small business

    Cons:

    • Slightly higher price point.
    • May need frequent reapplication, especially during water activities.

    BLUE LIZARD Mineral Sunscreen Stick with Zinc Oxide SPF 50+

    Blue lizard non-toxic kids stick sunscreen

    Features:

    • Ingredients: Contains non-nano zinc oxide as the primary active ingredient, providing physical sun protection.
    • Certification: Free from oxybenzone, octinoxate, parabens, fragrances, and dyes, making it safe for sensitive skin and the environment.
    • Environmental Impact: Reef-friendly formulation, protecting delicate coral reefs.

    Pros:

    • Broad-spectrum SPF 50+ protection against UVA and UVB rays.
    • Water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, suitable for active kids.
    • Easy application stick format that glides on smoothly and dries non-greasy and non-sticky.
    • 100% vegan and free from common skin irritants.

    Cons:

    • Small size (0.5 oz), which may require frequent repurchase for regular use.
    • Packaging may vary, which could affect user experience.

    Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50

    Babo Botanicals Non-toxic Baby Sunscreen

    Features:

    • Ingredients: Contains natural zinc oxide as the active ingredient for sun protection.
    • Certification: EWG Verified, ensuring high safety standards. Also, cruelty-free and vegan.
    • Formulation: Fragrance-free and designed specifically for sensitive skin, including babies.

    Pros:

    • Broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection against UVA and UVB rays.
    • Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, making it suitable for swimming and outdoor activities.
    • Non-greasy and easy to apply, providing effective protection without leaving a sticky residue.
    • Pediatrician tested, ensuring it is safe for young children.

    Cons:

    • The 3-ounce size may require frequent repurchase for regular use.
    • Requires thorough rubbing to blend the white lotion into the skin.

    Protective Clothing and Other Tips and Alternatives to Limit Sun Exposure

    Wearing protective clothing is a great first line of defense for children, who tend not to like getting sunscreen applied or re-applied consistently throughout the day. The benefits are clear:

    1. Provides consistent protection: Unlike sunscreen, which can wear off, clothing offers continuous protection as long as it remains in place.
    2. Reduces the need for frequent sunscreen application: With less skin exposed, there is less need for sunscreen, which can be particularly beneficial for children with sensitive skin.
    3. Offers immediate sun shielding: Protective clothing starts working instantly, unlike sunscreen, which needs time to become effective.

    Consider using the following protective gear for you and your kids: 

    1. Long-Sleeved Shirts and Pants: Provide extensive coverage, reducing the amount of exposed skin. We generally prefer clothing made from organic cotton, hemp, Tencel (Lyocell) or bamboo. These are highly sustainable options and, especially if organic, don't lead to chemical exposure for your kids. With that said, clothing made from these natural fibers aren't always tightly woven, which reduced the level of sun protection. Clothing made specifically for sun protection tends to provide higher level of protection. It is usually made from polyester, however, which we usually try to avoid. If your kids or you are at a higher risk for skin cancer, this is may be where you'd want to compromise. If you do, we'd recommend making sure you are purchasing clothing made from recycled polyester at least to minimize environmental impact. Also, keep in mind, clothing in darker colors tends to provide more protection than lighter colored clothing. Coolibar sun protection UPF50 clothing has good options made from natural fibers like cotton and bamboo derived viscose that provide high degree of protection, including long sleeve shirts, hoodie sun shirts, pants and more.
    2. Wide-brimmed hats: Offer shade for the face, neck, and shoulders, which are particularly susceptible to sunburn. This flap hat, for example, has UPF 50 rating and is even made from organic cotton. 
    3. UV-blocking sunglasses: Protect the eyes from UV damage, reducing the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions. Check out these unbreakable polarized sunglasses for kids and babies with a strap. They are highly durable (much needed with adventurous little ones) and don't get lost easily, therefore, you wouldn't have to replace them often unlike other cheaper options, leading to more waste. 

    Other Tips and Alternatives to Limit Sun Exposure

    1. Seek shade, especially during peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.): The sun's rays are strongest during these hours, so finding shade can significantly reduce UV exposure. Use umbrellas, canopies, or find natural shade under trees.
    2. Use umbrellas or canopies at the beach or park: These provide portable shade solutions, ensuring protection during outdoor activities.
    3. Consider Earthley Sun Shield - natural, organic sun protective lotion (not a sunscreen) that protects your skin from sun damage using antioxidants and vitamins instead of sunscreen chemicals. It is made with olive oil, avocado oil, raspberry oil, mango butter and other ingredients. Unlike traditional sunscreens, this product won't block vitamin D.

    Educating Children:

    1. Teach children the importance of sun safety: Make sun protection a regular part of their routine. Explain why it's essential to wear sunscreen and protective clothing.
    2. Make applying sunscreen and wearing protective clothing a routine: Incorporate these practices into daily habits, especially during summer or outdoor activities.
    3. Ensure children stay hydrated to avoid heat-related illnesses: Encourage regular water intake, as hydration helps regulate body temperature and prevents heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

    Non-toxic Tips for Soothing Sunburn

    Even with the best precautions, sometimes kids get a little too much sun. Here's what to do to soothe sunburn:

    Earthley Sunburn Soothing Lotion
    • Cool it down: Get your child out of the sun and into a cool bath or apply cool compresses to the burned areas.
    • Use natural soothing products: Apply one of the following products that work well for soothing red uncomfortable burns - Earthley Sun Sooth, a lotion made with organic ingredients to soothe and moisturize sunburned skin; Badger Aloe Vera Gel made from 96% organic ingredients. 
    • Hydrate: Sunburn can lead to dehydration, so make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
    • Pain relief: If your child is in pain, you can give them over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen according to the recommended dosage for their age and weight.
    • Avoid further sun exposure: Keep your child out of direct sunlight until the sunburn heals completely.
    • Dress comfortably: Loose-fitting, breathable clothing made from natural fibers like cotton will help prevent irritation.

    Bottom line, sun protection is an essential part of keeping your kids safe and healthy outdoors. By implementing a combination of non-toxic sunscreen, protective clothing, and smart sun habits, you can ensure they enjoy the sunshine while minimizing their risk of sunburn and long-term skin damage. Remember, sun safety is a lifelong habit, so start these practices early and make them a fun part of your outdoor adventures!

    Let us know how you keep your kids safe outdoors, including your experience with favorite sunscreens and other alternative sun protection approaches. 

     

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