11 dangerous baby sunscreen mistakes you must avoid this Summer
It’s a real dilemma. You want to protect your little one’s skin from sun damage. You know that two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer, and it only take a couple of major sunburns in childhood to double your child’s risk of melanoma.
Yet you also want to get them out into the fresh air, show them the delights of beaches and parks and nature in all their summertime glory. To complicate things, you’ve read that some baby sunscreens contain chemicals that might increase the risk of cancer.
How on earth can you protect your baby and toddler, naturally?
In this blog, we look at the 11 most common mistakes that parents make when it comes to baby sunscreen and sunscreen for kids. Plus, we show you better, safer ways to protect your little one’s skin this summer.
Mistake #1: using the highest SPF possible
It seems obvious. The higher the SPF the better, right?
Interestingly, although SPF now goes higher than 100 in some countries, health officials say lower SPF can be just as good.
The problem is, people believe that the SPF numbers are mathematically logical. They think SPF 30 offers twice as much protection as SPF 15. So they become more complacent. They let their kids stay in the sun longer and reapply less often.
But it doesn’t. There are diminishing returns of effectiveness.
Here’s how it works:
- SPF — or Sun Protection Factor — indicates a sunscreen’s ability to prevent the sun’s UVB rays from damaging the skin. (Even though broad spectrum sunscreens protect from UVA and UVB, the SPF only measures the UVB protection.)
- SPF 15 filters out around 93 percent of incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent and SPF 50 keeps out 98 percent.
- The Skin Cancer Foundation says, “Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do an excellent job of protecting against UVB.”
- In addition, the higher the SPF, the more concentrated the active ingredients. Quite simply, for chemical sunscreens, the higher the SPF, the higher the chemical load (see point 2 for explanation of chemical vs non-toxic sunscreen) An SPF of 50 uses more chemicals than a SPF 15 sunscreen for little return.
At Lovekins, we use an SPF of 15, because we believe this to be the ideal SPF for young skin. It’s effective in protecting against UVB without the need for harsh chemicals. Just as importantly, it’s low enough for parents to consider other forms of sun protection, such as shade and clothing.
Our sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB.
Mistake #2: using sunscreens that rub in
There are two main types of sunscreen: chemical-based sunscreens, and natural or mineral-based sunscreens, also referred to as non-toxic sunscreens.
The chemical sunscreens “rub in” all the way and absorb into the skin. This makes them popular with older kids, teenagers and adults. However, chemical sunscreens use a huge list of ingredients that include harmful substances, including chemicals linked to cancer and hormone disruption.
Mineral sunscreens leave a thin white film – the film creates a physical barrier from UVA and UVB. Remember when Pink Zinc first came out? Cricketers and surf life savers used to slather it across their noses.
These days mineral sunscreens are less obvious, leaving just a faint white sheen.
The benefit is that mineral sunscreens are natural. They use a safe, active ingredient such as Zinc Oxide. The other benefit of zinc oxide is that it sits on the skin to protect from UVA and UVB, it doesn’t absorb into the skin.
The key is to find a sunscreen that mixes zinc oxide with other natural ingredients, so your baby doesn’t look like a 1980s cricketer, but is still protected.
Mistake #3: not checking the ingredients
Because the way sunscreens work is a mystery to so many, people assume you need dozens of chemicals to make them effective.
In reality, you only need one proven active ingredient to protect against UVA and UVB, such as zinc oxide.
Before you buy a sunscreen, check the ingredients. Look for these red flags:
- Avoid retinyl palmitate, retinol or vitamin A. This ingredient may actually trigger damage to sun-exposed skin.
- Avoid Oxybenzone, found to be a hormone disrupter.
- As always, avoid Parabens, Phthalates, PEG’s (polyethylene glycols), Propylene Glycol, SLS/SLES (see our blog, ) These can form free radicals which damage your little one’s skin, and are also linked to other health issues.
- Avoid fragrances. If your sunscreen ingredients says “fragrance” or “parfum” it means it contains artificial fragrances which can irritate delicate skin.
- Also beware sunscreens marketed as “kids sunscreen” or “baby sunscreen”, and yet use the same ingredients as adult lotions.
Lovekins baby sunscreen uses zinc oxide as the active ingredient. It sits on the skin to protect against UVB/UVA, rather than absorbing into the skin. No harsh chemicals are contained in our sunscreen, in fact we have been approved by Safe Cosmetics Australia for our Toxic-Free formulation.
Mistake #4: using the wrong kind of zinc oxide (micronisation and nanoparticles)
Even though mineral sunscreens are safer than chemical alternatives, not all mineral sunscreens are equally safe.
While zinc oxide is safe, micronised zinc oxide is less so. Micronised means “made micro”. The particles of the zinc oxide are made smaller, or to be precise, the average diameter of each particle is reduced down to a few micrometres.
Manufacturers do this because the smaller particles create less of a white film residue. But the problem is that the articles are so small that they may enter through the skin into the blood stream.
Nanoparticles are even smaller than microparticles. The particles of the substances used in the sunscreen are reduced down until they are less than 100 nanometers in diameter.
As with micronisation, there are concerns that nanoparticles can penetrate the skin.
Try to avoid sunscreens with micronised or nanoparticle options, and go for the standard zinc oxide formulations.
Mistake #5: using sunscreen on babies under 6 months
Paediatricians recommend that babies under six months be kept out of the sun entirely. Don’t rely on sunscreen to protect their skin.
Not only is sun extremely damaging to their very delicate skin, but even natural sunscreens can be too harsh.
Keep babies under six months old in the shade, and use clothing, hats, umbrellas and pram shades to protect them when out and about.
Mistake #6: not thinking beyond the SPF
SPF is an important indicator of UVB rays, however there are other ways sunscreen can protect your baby’s skin.
Look for natural sunscreens with ingredients that protect, nourish and hydrate your little one’s skin.
For example, Lovekins natural baby sunscreen contains Kakadu Plum (richest source of vitamin C on earth) and Quandong (wild peach) to protect young skin from the damaging effects of the sun, plus chamomile extract to calm and soothe the skin.
We’ve developed a unique formulation that isn’t oily, compared to many other children’s sunscreens which leave an oily film in your baby’s little crevices and skin folds.
Mistake #7: using the wrong kind of clothing
We all know Slip Slop Slap, however many of us don’t slip on the right kind of clothing.
Not all clothes protect from UVA and UVB rays, and if you can see through the cloth when you hold it up to your eyes, it probably won’t protect from sunburn either.
If possible, use protective clothing with a UPF rating on your little one when out in the sun.
UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor. It’s not the same as SPF. A UPF of 50 means the clothes will allow only 1/50th of the sun’s UV radiation to reach your baby’s skin.
If you don’t have UPF rated clothing, remember these tips:
- The more skin you cover, the better. Use long sleeved t-shirts rather than little strappy dresses or singlet tops, even if it’s hot.
- Synthetic fabrics have better sun protection than cotton, because the fibres are closer together. A thin white cotton T-shirt, has a UPF of about 5, even less when wet. Lycra or elastane fabrics have a UPF of around 50.
Mistake #8: going out at the wrong time
You’re finally ready to go outside, after your toddler has had four meltdowns about the cereal, the wrong colour sippy cup, the scratchy shoes and the yucky hat. Then your baby needs a feed.
Eventually at mid-morning you make it out the door to head to the beach. It takes an hour to get all the stuff from the car down to the sand (floaties, bucket, 3 spades, umbrella, towels and 6 assorted bath toys, plus snacks), and now it’s time for lunch.
This is a common problem for parents of young kids. You’re out in the sun at the wrong time. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends staying out of the sun between 11 and 3 on summer days. The UV Index is simply too high in the middle of the day, especially for babies and toddlers.
On days when you want to spend a lot of time outdoors, try to shift the routine so you can be there earlier or later in the day.
Mistake #9: thinking no sunburn means no damage
It’s the UVB rays that cause sunburn, however UVB and UVA rays both cause skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.
The level of redness of your child’s skin is never a good indicator of protection.
You can’t see UVA damage. Instead, look at the UV Index (on most weather website and news sites), remember that UV is highest in the middle of the day, even if it’s cloudy, and use multiple ways to protect your child’s skin.
Mistake #10: not using sunscreen every day
Even if you’re not intentionally spending time in the sun, your child needs sunscreen. General sun exposure, from walking to the shop or playing in the garden while you hang out the clothes all adds up.
Add sunscreen to your morning routine. Have a bottle next to the tooth brushes on the bathroom basin, so sunscreen becomes a standard part of getting ready for the day.
Mistake#11: not reapplying often enough
You need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and more if you’re active or sweaty– and that’s just about every toddler or baby we know!
Just as you add sunscreen to your morning routine, add reapplication to other daily routines. For example, morning tea is sunscreen time.
If your little one goes to preschool or daycare, find out about how they reapply sunscreen throughout the day, and explain to your child the importance of taking this seriously.
Want a natural baby sunscreen that’s safe and effective? You can buy Lovekins Natural Baby Sunscreen online here: