How to Choose a Sunscreen for Your Little Ones

How to Choose a Sunscreen for your Little One - by Little Bits of GranolaIs mid-summer sneaking up on you too?  I swear we were just shoveling snow and now it is almost the middle of July, when the days are long and the sun’s rays beam down like winter will never show its face again.  Each year, it seems, we get more and more educated on the potentially harmful ingredients in sunscreens.  Every mom wants to keep her babies safe, but man, choosing a safe sunscreen can be overwhelming.  I’m going to keep this simple and just let you know which ingredients the experts say are safe and which to avoid.  I’ll link up to some additional resources so that you can read on if you want to know the effects and other characteristics of each ingredient, but the purpose here is to give you quick-and-dirty version.

First of all, it is always safest to use physical barriers to the sun.  That means clothing, hats, umbrellas, sunglasses, etc.  These contain none of the harmful chemicals listed below.

Then there is the vitamin D debate.  In case you are wondering and don’t really want to do a ton of reading, the gist of it is that UVB rays from the sun stimulate vitamin D production.  Sunscreens block UVB rays.  The debate is whether or not sunscreens cause or contribute to vitamin D deficiency.  There was a study that is often cited as having shown that using sunscreen does not decrease vitamin D production.  But there are others who interpret that study as not REALLY proving that.  My thoughts?  If you are worried about vitamin D deficiency, visit your doctor.  She can test your vitamin D levels and make recommendations if your vitamin D levels need boosting.  Otherwise, preventing sunburn is an important part of preventing skin cancer, so please put sunscreen on your babies!

Ok, on to the good stuff.  I’m going to share with you three lists:  what to avoid, active ingredients deemed safe, and recommended sunscreens.  If you’d like to know more about the ingredients and recommended sunscreens, check out the list of resources at the bottom.

Avoid Sunscreens with:





Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-)

Nanoparticles (Nano Zinc, Nano Titanium)

Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate)

Combined bug repellent

SPF higher than 50 or lower than 15

Spray or powder application


Active Ingredients deemed safe:

Zinc Oxide (Micronized)

Titanium Dioxide (Micronized)


Recommended Sunscreens

There are actually 172 sunscreens that meet the Environmental Working Group’s criteria for safe sunscreen.  I chose sunscreens that had an EWG score of 0 or 1 and are either available in major retail stores, like Target, or on  Availability was super important to me in making my recommendations.  I know most can be purchased from the company’s website, but if you’re like me you are much more likely to purchase a product like sunscreen from a store or website where you are already buying other items.  A few of these are also recommended by SafeMama.

I am in no way affiliated with Target or Amazon.  I chose those because I know many, many people have access to shop with those companies.

Recommended Sunscreens by Little Bits of Granola



Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide to Safe Sunscreens (Check this out for tons of info on sun safety, the pros and cons of sunscreen, skin cancer, vitamin D, and how to properly use sunscreen.  EWG also gives references if you want more info or proof and describes their methodology.)

SafeMama’s 2013 Safer Sunscreen Cheat Sheet (For the lowdown on ingredients plus a nice long list of recommended sunscreens, check this one out.  This is an awesome resource to help you really understand safe sunscreens.)

Which Kids’ Sunscreens Should You Avoid? By Mother Jones (This one actually tells you specific sunscreens NOT to use, and gives recommendations from EWG as well.)


Linked up at Living Well Spending Less and The Pistachio Project.


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