I have come to terms with the fact that I will never have a gorgeous sun kissed tan like you see in the swimsuit magazines. I have a natural peaches and cream complexion which isn’t super pale but not super tan either. As a child I tanned pretty nicely and as I entered my teen years I remember always wanting to be darker than my skin would naturally tan. I was never a tanning bed person (although I did try it a few times in my younger days) but I hated applying sunscreen as a teenager. With both of my parents having skin cancer spots removed from their face, shoulders, back, and legs I decided that it was time for me to lay off the tanning and play it smart in the sun. Once I had children of my own I decided it was time to start doing a little more research into proper sun safety. It’s amazing how quickly your priorities change after having children.
We’ve always lived in the south where the summer heat is scorching, now that we live in Florida, sun safety is part of our everyday routine. Did you know that sun safety isn’t just about choosing a good sunscreen? Did you know that some sunscreens can still cause damage to your skin? Do you know how to properly protect your children from the damaging effects of the sun?
1. Hats: They are more than just a fashion accessory. Hats will protect your head, face, neck, and shoulders from UV rays without having to apply any sunscreen. Hats are great for all ages and perfect for babies who may not be old enough for sunscreen.
2. Sunglasses: Did you know that UV radiation can cause cataracts later in life? I have blue eyes and I’ve been told they are most sensitive to light. I can’t go outside without sunglasses. If we can’t be comfortable without sunglasses how can we expect our children to? Invest in a few pair of baby and kids sized sunglasses and keep a pair in the car.
3. UV Protective Clothing: If you are going to be at the beach, pool, lake or outside for long periods of time it’s safest to cover up with clothing. A long sleeve shirt, skirt or pants, or rash guard top can help prevent sun exposure and reduce the amount of sunscreen you need to apply. Many children’s stores carry entire lines of UV protective clothing and swimwear perfect for babies and toddlers. Don’t be afraid to layer up.
4. Shade: Buy a beach umbrella, canopy, relax under a tree, and play in the shade! Many parks now offer playgrounds with shade over top now too. My favorite beach accessory when my kids were infants and toddlers was a fold up beach canopy. We would let the kids play under the canopy while at the beach and often times they’d end up napping in the shade.
5. Early & Late in the Day: UV radiation peaks around noon when the sun is the highest in the sky. Play your outings early in the day or late in the afternoon to avoid the most dangerous times of the day. This is usually when the entire family can benefit from a break for lunch or nap anyways.
6. Safe, Non-Toxic Sunscreen: This one is trickier than you may think! Aren’t all sunscreens safe? According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Sunscreens, there are some ingredients that you want to avoid in your sunscreen. Avoid vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, oxybenzone, and avoid spray sunscreens. These ingredients can cause tumors or disrupt your hormone system. Babies & Infants: Infants under 6 months should be kept out of direct sun as much as possible. It can take up to 6 months for your baby’s skin to start producing melanin; your body’s first line of defense against UV rays. This is why most sunscreens say they aren’t safe for children under 6 months of age.
Many of the safer sunscreens are mineral based and rely on some percentage of zinc oxide for protection. Regardless of the sunscreen used you should always reapply often (every 1-3 hours). Using a sunscreen with a higher SPF will only provide you with a false sense of protection. If you plan on being outside for long periods of time, the best prevention against burning is to find shade, wear UV protective clothing, and reapply your sunscreen often.
Which sunscreens are good? There really are a lot of great brands out there but if you’re at your local store, chances are most of them are bad! Learn to read the labels and avoid those dangerous ingredients; vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, and oxybenzone. I’ve tested a few over the years and they continue to get better each year.
The problem with some mineral based, all-natural, and organic sunscreens is that they appear thicker, pasty, and leave you with white streaks. I know we want to be protected, but if it’s a pain to apply and leaves you looking like a ghost, chances are you won’t apply it. I’m currently using or testing Balm! Baby SUN!, Honest Company Sunscreen, and Block Island Organics sunscreen. Only Honest and Block Island have been rated by EWG and both score a 1-2 (that’s a great rating by the EWG). Since Balm! Baby is a small company out of Hawaii they haven’t been tested by the EWG yet. All of these sunscreens are natural or organic and do not contain any of those forbidden ingredients.
Below are my opinions on these 3 brands of sunscreens:
Block Island Organics SPF 40 ($29.99 – 6oz.): Vegan, paraben free, phthalate free, nano-particle free, artificial fragrance free, non eye irritating, not tested on animals, and made in the USA. I loved the consistency of the tube and how well it rubbed in. When I first tested it I experienced some flaking after about 5 minutes. You can see a picture (click here to view on Instagram) of the results before we even got to the beach yesterday. My son noticed a very similar flaking on his legs that same day. I did test this sunscreen again today and didn’t have the same flaking. For the price, I wouldn’t expect this type of problem. It won’t be the first one I reach for because I’m scared the flaking will happen again. You can currently find Block Island online and at a few stores in California, Florida, and Rhode Island. Try it for yourself – use coupon code calley and save 20% off your order between now and June 8th.
Honest Company Sunscreen SPF 30 ($13.95 – 3oz): Natural, unscented, non-nano, non-whitening, vegatarian, PABA free, oxybenzone free, gluten free, phthalates free, no fragrances, dyes, or synthetic chemicals. Made in the USA. I tried this sunscreen last year and actually reordered 2 tubes last week in my Honest Essentials Bundle (5 mix&match products for only $35.95/month – $7.19 per piece). I love how it applies and it doesn’t leave any white streaks behind. The picture below actually picked up the white much more than I noticed in real lift. For ease of use, price, and application this is my current favorite sunscreen.
Balm! Baby SUN! by ThinkSkin SPF 30 ($9.95 2oz glass jar): Organic, natural, GMO free, cruelty free, vegan, only organic & natural ingredients, Made in Hawaii. Non-nano zinc, paraben free, phthalate free, and PABA free. I tried Balm! Baby SUN last year as well and still have some left this year. Because of the small size and glass jar, it’s not the first sunscreen that I reach for but I love.LOVE.LOVE the way it feels once it’s on. Because it’s not in a squeeze tube it takes slightly longer to apply (not the greatest when you are applying on 4 people) that the others I’ve tested. It’s fine when it’s just me that I’m applying the sunscreen to because I don’t mind taking a few extra minutes to apply. I especially love that it’s herbal infused with essential oils and leaves my skin feeling so soft and moisturized. When I’m applying to my kids they don’t want to sit still long enough for this one. They do like it on their face because it doesn’t sting or run into their eyes. From the eco-friendly perspective, I love the it comes in the glass jar but it makes it harder to apply than plastic tube sunscreens.
I polled some of my Facebook fans and here are some of their favorite brands: Think Baby, Badger, Babyganics, and TruKid.
As far as how they worked, I’ve never had a sunscreen that was the cause of my sunburn. I have had a sunburn from user error, lack of reapplying, or from missing a spot. Another aspect that I can’t test for you is how well these sunscreens will work on different colors of skin.
Disclosure: I received some of the products mentioned above for review, while others I paid for. That does not change my opinion of how well they performed. Some links in this post are affiliate links; I earn a small commission off the purchases you make from using these links. Thank you in advance for supporting this blog. All opinions in this post are my own and should only be used as guidance. I cannot be held liable for my recommendations.
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[…] I’m sure I’ve missed a few! Help me out and leave some other things only beach lovers understand in the comments. Even if you’re a beach pro, you may want to read my recent post – Smart Sun Safety Tips. […]