Now that summer is here, taking your babies and toddlers outside to play has a whole slew of extra to-dos. From making sure they wear a hat, providing them with plenty of water, lathering with sunscreen, and keeping them cool, there’s a lot to remember. And that’s just for your baby!
Don’t forget about keeping yourself safe in the sun, as well! I am guilty of not practicing safe sun habits for myself because with 2 under 2, I have enough to think about that I forget forget to protect myself.
The powerful capabilities of SPF can have a huge benefit when it comes to protecting your body and skin from skin cancer, skin damage, and premature aging. That’s why sunscreen is so important during those early years and for the rest of their life.
In this post, I will go through safe sunscreen habits, what types of sunscreen are the best for you and your baby, and why it’s important to keep their skin safe.
Why is the sun harmful for my baby’s skin?
The sun does have one benefit to our bodies. The skin needs some sunlight to produce vitamin D, which is important for normal bone strength and formation. However, its UV rays can have harmful effects on our bodies, as well.
A brief lesson on how sunlight is used by our bodies: The outer layer of our skin (and a baby’s skin) has cells which contain the pigment melanin. Melanin attempts to protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays, which can burn, and over time, reduce its elasticity, causing premature aging. Our skin gets a suntan because the sunlight that hits our skin causes it to produce more melanin and darken.
So while our bodies do use the sun in a healthy way, overexposure can cause issues. When the sun’s UV rays penetrate the outer skin layers and pass into the deeper layers, that’s the main risk factor for damaging skin cells, sunburns, skin damage, premature skin aging, and skin cancer.
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What age should I use sunscreen for my baby?
It is recommended to use sunscreen once your baby is 6 months old. Before that age, prevent sun exposure with hats, sitting in the shade or under a canopy.
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Sunscreen should be used all year round
The sun comes out all year, not just in the summertime. It may be stronger in the summer, but it can still cause damage in the colder winter months. So why do we only protect ourself from the sun during the summer time?
When it’s cooler, you’re most likely wearing long pants and long sleeves. Therefore, most of your body is already protected. However, your face and hands will still always be exposed so it’s best to apply sunscreen to those areas all year round.
The 2 different types of sunscreens
A baby’s fresh skin is much more delicate than ours. That’s why it’s important to use sunscreen to keep it safe from sun damage and the effect’s of the sun’s harmful rays.
But did you know that many sunscreens contain chemicals that may have negative health effects for you and your baby?
There are 2 different types of sunscreen: Chemical and Mineral sunscreens. The main difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens can be found in their ingredients and the process by which they block the UV rays.
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Chemical sunscreens have harmful, non-natural ingredients that could potentially cause health problems for you and your baby. These ingredients include Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, and Octocrylene which have been shown by research to have potential risks.
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the sun’s UV rays and then forming a chemical reaction to extinguish the UV rays. Therefore, the UV rays are never actually hitting your skin because they are absorbed before coming into contact with it.
However, because these chemicals get absorbed by the skin, they can also seep into your blood stream. Once they get into your blood stream, they can be transferred through your body and into other bodily fluids, including breastmilk.
You may be thinking, well I put all sorts of lotions and products on my baby so why is this any different? Well some of the compounds in sunscreen can affect the hormone levels in your body. Studies show that chemical ingredients in sunscreens can increase the risk of endometriosis in women, decrease sperm concentration in men, and lower testosterone levels in adolescent males.
The FDA approved these chemicals when they first regulated sunscreen in the 1970s. They were approved without having to go through a strict approval process because they had already been using them for years.
Unfortunately, we simply don’t know if chemical sunscreens are safe for young children or even adults. If this is concerning to you, you have a safer option available.
Mineral sunscreens use 100% natural minerals, including zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, as their active ingredients.
Instead of penetrating your skin and disintegrating UV rays like chemical sunscreen, the minerals just sit on top of your skin and protect it by reflecting away the harmful UV rays. Mineral sunscreen actually bounces the rays away before even hitting your skin.
So, is mineral sunscreen the best?
Sunscreens that have only mineral-based active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are safe for babies, children, and adults alike. Although these minerals are safe in and on the skin, the particles from mineral based sunscreens remain on the surface of the skin and never get absorbed.
Make sure you are still reading the label when buying any products, including sunscreens. Some brands of sunscreen may market themselves as being a mineral-based sunscreen, but they really have other chemical ingredients in them, as well.
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Other tips to keep in mind
Due to the fact that mineral sunscreens don’t get absorbed into the skin, but sit on top of it, they typically leave behind white residue that is difficult to fully rub in. It can make you or your child look a chalky, white color.
Although it may not look quite as nice as chemical sunscreen that have penetrating enhancers to help them seep into skin faster, you don’t want anything getting into your baby’s body this way. Even though it leaves behind a residue, it’s safer than chemical sunscreens so it’s my ultimate choice!
“Broad Spectrum” sunscreen is sunscreen that blocks ALL harmful UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen is either labeled “broad spectrum” or none at all. If it doesn’t say broad spectrum, then it could still let some UV rays through to penetrate the skin.
Thinkbaby uses 100% mineral-based active ingredients that offer superior protection from UV rays. It shouldn’t irritate even the most sensitive baby’s skin and it smells great.
Another reason that I love Thinkbaby Sunscreen is that it feels light compared to other mineral sunscreens and rubs in super easily. Many other mineral sunscreens feel heavy and thick and take forever to rub in, but even then there is still dark white residue left.
Thinkbaby is free of biologically harmful chemicals like avobenzone, oxybenzone, paraben, phthalates, PABA, 1,4 dioxane, and UV chemical absorbers. It has an SPF of 50+,the highest level of water resistance, and broad-spectrum coverage for UVA and UVB rays.
*Not Sponsored. I just really love their product!
How important is SPF?
The SPF (sun protection factor) is important to look at on a sunscreen, but the really high numbers are not always necessary.
SPF 30 is a minimum requirement for sun safety and the higher you go doesn’t provide an enormous benefit. However, most of us tend to miss spots, not put enough on, or not reapply as often as we should. Therefore, the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) can be drastically reduced when we don’t follow the proper guidelines.
In that case, SPF 50 could ultimately give a protection of SPF 30 if not applied correctly. So it would be in your best interest to use a higher SPF to guarantee 30-equivalent protection.
Don’t forget to check the expiration dates!
One of the most common issues that we forget to do is check expiration dates. Most products do expire and it can be very important to not use expired products.
Often times if we don’t finish a bottle of sunscreen one summer, we put it away and don’t see it again until the following summer. Within this time period, the sunscreen could have expired.
I once bought two containers of sunscreen from Buy Buy Baby that expired within 2 months of purchase! Typically sunscreen has an expiration date of about 2 years. Therefore, if I didn’t check those dates I could have been using it way past it’s expiration causing unsafe sun practices.
This goes for pregnant and nursing women too!
Although you may not realize it, anything you put on your skin can reach your growing fetus or be transferred to your breastmilk. Many women are only concerned with ingredients or products that they ingest, but in actuality, anything that you inhale or come in contact with can potentially effect your baby.
Your skin is an organ. In fact, it’s the largest organ in your body. That means that blood vessels (arteries and veins) run back and forth from your skin to your heart and all throughout your body.
This means that anything that touches your skin is absorbed and passed into your blood stream, taken anywhere in your body. Therefore, you don’t want to expose yourself to any harmful chemicals or materials that could cause harm to your growing baby.