Sunscreen component #1: What the label says
- Look for a sunscreen with a label saying, “Broad spectrum, SPF 30+.”
- Broad spectrum means both UVA and UVB coverage while SPF means UVB coverage. SPF 30 means 97% coverage so that is why higher SPFs are not so necessary. Instead of focusing on a higher SPF, focus on re-slathering on the sunscreen every 1 ½ to 2 hours and after water exposure. Re-slathering the sunscreen is key! Know this- both UVA and UVB contribute to sunburns, which ultimately increase your risk of skin cancers such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Sunscreen component #2: Active ingredients
- Use a chemical-free sunscreen for your baby. This is the best sunscreen for babies. A chemical-free sunscreen is one in which the active ingredients are not chemicals but minerals such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are physical blockers of both UVA and UVB rays. Since they are not chemicals, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are non-irritating to baby’s skin and gentler on the eyes. It is best to keep using these sunscreens from baby to toddler years because of this low irritation. For the years past babyhood and toddlerhood, these products are great to use on the face while using a different type of sunscreen on the rest of the body. Watch out for nanoparticle-sized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide because of the concern of absorption through the skin to the rest of the body. Rather, micronized zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are best. The micronized versions will leave a whitish residue on the skin after application, and that is a good thing to see.
Sunscreen component 3: Inactive ingredients
- Inactive ingredients give the sunscreen product the “feel” of the product. These ingredients make up the product vehicle so that the product feels like a lotion versus a foam versus a spray. Even though natural seems better, be cautious of sunscreens with “natural” ingredients. Some natural ingredients can actually be photoallergic or phototoxic, which means a certain ingredient in combination with the sunrays may lead to an allergic reaction (photoallergic) or sunburn (phototoxic). Examples of plant-based ingredients leading to a photoallergic or phototoxic reaction are lime, lemon oil, orange oils, parsnip, parsley, and celery. Note these as you’re browsing through the ingredients on the label.
- Some inactive ingredients that can give some added SPF through their natural SPF characteristics are shea butter, coconut oil, carrot extract, and jojoba seed oil.
Next time, as you’re looking for the best sunscreen for your baby, consider the 3 components to look for: what’s on the label, the active ingredients and the inactive ingredients.