Natural Sunscreens for Babies: Are They Effective?

Babies' skin is delicate and reacts easily to certain products. Therefore, knowing how to choose the most appropriate option for your care is key. Today, we'll talk about natural sunscreens for babies.
Natural Sunscreens for Babies: Are They Effective?
Maria del Carmen Hernandez

Reviewed and approved by the dermatologist Maria del Carmen Hernandez.

Last update: 22 December, 2021

Natural sunscreens are the most recommended for babies. This is because the skin of little ones is very sensitive and the components of these products are less irritating than products containing chemicals.

Next, we’ll detail all the aspects that you should take into account when choosing the best natural sunscreen for your little one.

The delicate skin of babies

Unlike what happens with other tissues, the structural and functional maturation of the skin is a gradual and dynamic process, which begins at birth and ends near the first year of life.

For this reason, the skin of babies is much thinner than that of adults, and their defense system (immune system) is not yet fully developed.

In turn, the sebaceous glands work at a slower rate, and therefore, the surface of the child’s skin has less protective fats (or lipid mantle).

Due to all these characteristics, the skin of babies burns and dehydrates more easily than that of adults.

A mother wiping her baby's face.

You may also be interested in: 10 Skincare Tips for Babies and Children

How to choose the best natural sunscreens for babies

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t recommend the application of any type of sunscreen on babies younger than 6 months. In fact, they recommend covering all of their skin with clothes and hats before exposing them to the sun.

For babies older than 6 months, experts suggest using sunscreen with a protection factor (SPF) 50 or higher and that’s waterproof and broad-spectrum (against UVA and UVB rays).

The effectiveness of natural sunscreens for babies

Mineral sunscreens that have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are the ideal choices for babies and children, especially those with sensitive skin.

Unlike other products, these are not absorbed and their minerals are distributed throughout the skin’s surface. Therefore, they block UVB and UVA rays.

Both compounds are capable of reflecting, scattering, and refracting sunlight, a condition that makes them safer than organic sunscreens.

The greater the quantity you use, the greater the degree of protection. However, their application is somewhat cumbersome because they’re very thick and difficult to spread on the skin of children. This is a determining factor in their effectiveness. Therefore, it’s essential that you choose the most practical type of presentation.

Avoid derivatives of oxybenzone!

The vast majority of components in children’s sunscreens are considered safe. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against the use of those that contain oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone, octisalate, octinoxate, octocrylene, avobenzone, and homosalate are some common elements in these products, which the skin absorbs and which can cause some significant changes in the child’s body. Among them, the following stand out:

  • Hormonal alterations
  • Allergies
  • Cell damage, which can increase the risk of cancer

In addition, these substances harm the environment, as they’re capable of altering the genetic information of some algae and thus disturbing the marine ecosystem. In fact, they discolor and favors the death of the species present in the coral reefs.

Additional sun protection measures for babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not exposing babies younger than 6 months to the sun directly. In addition, it’s best to keep them in the shade during peak hours, between 10 am and 4 pm.

To ensure its effectiveness, it’s important to apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure to radiation and repeat the application every two hours or after bathing.

Sun-protective clothing is a great option for children as it acts as a barrier to UVB and UVA rays. This group includes wide-brimmed hats and SPF swimsuits.

Where possible, it’s better to choose to leave children in the shade, especially those under one year of age.

A baby at the beach wearing a woven straw hat.

Sunscreen as a habit from an early age

Creating the habit of using sunscreen on a daily basis is equal to or more important than any other care and hygiene routine. Therefore, a good strategy is to begin to instill these routines early in life.

In addition, these measures not only prevent acute sunburns, but also malignant lesions that may manifest in the future.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Latha MS, Martis J, Shobha V, Sham Shinde R, Bangera S, Krishnankutty B, Bellary S, Varughese S, Rao P, Naveen Kumar BR. Sunscreening agents: a review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013 Jan;6(1):16-26. PMID: 23320122; PMCID: PMC3543289.
  • Quatrano NA, Dinulos JG. Current principles of sunscreen use in children. Curr Opin Pediatr. 2013 Feb;25(1):122-9. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0b013e32835c2b57. PMID: 23295720.
  • Julian E, Palestro AM, Thomas JA. Pediatric Sunscreen and Sun Safety Guidelines. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 2015 Oct;54(12):1133-40. doi: 10.1177/0009922815591889. Epub 2015 Jun 29. PMID: 26130395.
  • Kullavanijaya P, Lim HW. Photoprotection. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2005 Jun;52(6):937-58; quiz 959-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2004.07.063. PMID: 15928611.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. Seguridad bajo el sol: información para los padres sobre quemaduras del sol y protectores solares. Healthy – AAP. [Internet] 2019. Disponible en:*12orssg*_ga*MTI3MjY5ODMyMC4xNjI4MjcwMzk5*_ga_FD9D3XZVQQ*MTYzMjc4MDAzNy4xMS4xLjE2MzI3ODAxMjIuMA..
  • Food and Drug Administration. Should You Put Sunscreen on Infants? Not Usually. FDA website [Internet]. Agosto 2021. Disponible en:

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.