Sunscreen for Infants

On the beach with baby
On the beach with baby (sun hat removed for photo)

When trying to choose the right sunscreen for your infant, you arrive at the store, only to be completely overwhelmed by the row upon row of choices. Brand names you’ve heard of, brands that you haven’t, sunscreen for babies, sunscreen for kids, sunscreen for adults, sprays, lotions, ingredients with unpronounceable words…

How do you choose?

Here are some things to look for:

  • provides broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
  • has an SPF of at least 15 to 30
  • is water-resistant. Even if they aren’t going swimming, they may still sweat.
  • is hypoallergenic, fragrance free and PABA free especially if your child has sensitive skin.

To get good protection from UVA rays, look for sunscreens that list avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide as one of their ingredients. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide can be less irritating than avobenzone. To get good protection from UVB rays look for one of these ingredients:

  • Benzophenones (Oxybenzone, Dioxybenzone, Sulisobenzone)
  • Cinnamates (Cinoxate, Octocrylene, Octyl Methoxycinnamate)
  • Menthyl anthranilate, also known as Meradimate
  • Mexoryl SX, also known as Ecamsule
  • Salicylates (Homosalate, Octisalate, Trolamine Salicylate, Octisalate)
  • Padimate 0
  • Phenylbenzimidazole
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • Zinc Oxide

Other helpful things to know about sunscreen ingredients:

Mexoryl SX is the newest sunscreen ingredient approved by the FDA. It provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays and was previously only available in Europe for many years. It is only available in high-end sunscreens, such as La Roche Posay Anthelios XL SPF 50 Cream and Lancome UV Expert 20.

Helioplex is a name brand for a sunscreen stabilizer that makes sunscreen ingredients more photostable, so that they don’t break down when exposed to the sun.

Unlike all of the other chemical sunscreen ingredients, which absorb the sun’s rays, Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are physical sunscreens that actually reflect the UVA and UVB rays of the sun.

Of these sunscreen ingredients, the ones that may concern some parents include retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone. Although many experts think they are safe, it is a common sunscreen controversy, and some parents choose to avoid them.

For those looking for a natural product, Badger Baby Sunscreen SPF 30 Chamomile is Certified Natural and contains only organic ingredients. The medicinal ingredient is 18.75% zinc oxide, which reflect both UVA and UVB rays. All of the other ingredients are things like Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Beeswax, Natural Vitamin E and Cocoa Butter to name a few. It’s pricier than other sunscreens but it contains no hard to pronounce chemicals like some of the others.

The Canadian Cancer Society cautions to try to keep toddlers and children out of the sun, between 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the rays are at their strongest, or any time of the day when the UV Index is 3 or more.

You shouldn’t use sunscreen on babies under 6 month of age so for them, your best bet is sun protection clothing, made with fabric that provides an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 to 50+ and seeking shade.


Babies and insect repellent: What you need to know

Photo by Håkan Dahlström.

Insect repellent is not recommended for children under 6 months of age. Use bug netting over cribs, playpens and strollers.

For products containing DEET, Health Canada recommends up to 10% concentration:

  • For children aged six months to two years, applied no more than once daily.
  • For children aged two to 12, applied up to three times daily.
  • One application of 10% DEET offers three hours of protection against mosquitos.

They also recommend that products containing the following not be used on children under 3:

  • P-menthane 3.8-diol
  • Citronella
  • Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus

Soybean Oil

Soybean oil, a 2% blocker repellent, is a personal insect repellent that provides protection for three and a half hours against mosquitos and for up to eight hours against black flies. There are no age restrictions or limitations on frequency of use with these products.

Tips for using insect repellent on infants and children:

  • read and follow directions on the product label
  • apply it to your own hands and then rub it on them
  • apply only to exposed skin and on clothing, never apply under clothing
  • do not apply to cuts, wounds or irritated skin
  • do not apply to young children’s hands and avoid contact with eyes and mouth
  • apply only a small amount, heavy application is not needed for effectiveness
  • after returning indoors, wash treated skin with soap and water
  • apply only in well ventilated areas and avoid applying around food
  • if you suspect that your child is having a reaction to the repellant, stop using immediately, wash it off their skin and get medical help. Take the product container with you.


Three things you MUST do before getting on an airplane with a baby

Photo by César Rincón

1. Use the restroom!

Make sure you go pee yourself and be sure to change your baby. Start the flight off with an empty bladder and a clean diaper. If the flight is short enough, you may be able to avoid having to use the small airplane lavatory altogether. If not, at least you’ll be able to wait until the fasten seatbelt sign has been turned off before you have to go yourself.

2. Make sure your carry on bag is stocked with all the essentials you’ll need to make it through the flight.

  • diapers
  • wipes
  • changing pad
  • extra clothes for baby
  • extra shirt for you
  • bottle of water for you
  • snack for you
  • soother or chew toy
  • favorite/new toys
  • bottles and formula
  • breastfeeding cover up
  • receiving blanket
  • food for baby if needed
  • hand sanitizer
  • gum
  • pen for filling out forms

If you discover that you’ve forgotten to pack anything, you can buy it at the airport. Of course you’ll need to buy your bottled water after you’ve cleared security.

3. Check in at the gate before they make the boarding announcements to get your “Gate Checked” tag(s) for your stroller and/or car seat.

The agent will give you a tag to put on your stroller (and your car seat if you are traveling with both) that indicates that it will be stowed on board. It’s much better to ask for this ahead of time than to wait until there is a line up of people waiting to board. When it is your turn to board, you wheel your stroller down the ramp, fold it up and leave it outside of the aircraft for the ground crew to pick up.