Natural Sun Protection

As we head outdoors to play in the sun after a long winter, the question of sun protection comes up again. Like all issues related to babies and children, this is often a hot subject.  I’m going to share what we do, and I hope that you will research other places as well before making a decision for your family. If you’ve already made your decision, I’d love to hear what you do in the comments :)

My motto: Avoid getting burned, but enjoy the health benefits of the summer sunshine

I love the mood-lifting, immunity boosting, warm liquid gold of sunshine, and I appreciate the health benefits that come from being out in it, but at the same time I do what I can to prevent my children from getting sun burned.  Read more about the health benefits of the sunshine.

Include lots of healthy fats in the diet

When the body is fed the correct foods it is amazingly resilient and naturally suited to our environment!  Cod liver oil and animal fats from healthy (grass fed) animals help our bodies stay safe in the sun from the inside out (source)!  Focus on what you put in the body and you will reap the benefits not only of natural sun protection, but improved mental health, energy, and immunity. What you eat matters!

Avoid toxic chemicals that are in sunscreens as much as possible

Don’t just go for the highest SPF or the bottle that you’ve always used! Sunscreen is notorious for including known carcinogens in its ingredients.  Check ingredients carefully! Skin Deep is a resource I have used in the past to evaluate whether a product is okay or not, not only do they evaluate products for you but they tell you what exactly is wrong with each ingredient.

The chemicals do absorb into the skin- that’s why patch medications work, our skin absorbs things right into our blood stream!

I do keep sunscreen on hand in case being in the sun is completely unavoidable, though we’ve only used it one time, on a hike.  Otherwise I have found it fairly easy to keep the kids in the shade, under a sun shirt, or limit the amount of sun to less than it would take for them to burn.  A friend recommended Neutrogena Pure and Free Sunblock, which has a SPF of 60 and a Skin Deep Rating of 3 (on the low end of moderate).  I’ve had Burt’s Bees sunscreen in the drawer in my bathroom for years, it has a Skin Deep Rating of 4, though I’d still be okay with occasional use.

I’m not completely anti-sunscreen, I just think it should be a tool rather than the first sun protection method of choice.

Build up sun exposure

In other areas, gradual increasing increments of sun exposure may be a normal part of the year transitioning from spring to summer, but here in Montana we often go from snow to 70* weather, back to snow, and back to bright sunshine! So I have to make sure that I gradually increase my little ones’ exposure to the sunshine so they can get a base tan and prevent burns.  I do this primarily through using protective clothing, as once the sun is finally out, there isn’t enough willpower to keep us inside at all!

Cover with sun shirts, hats, etc.

Covering up is a great option. My kids both wear swim trunks with rash guards (quick dry t-shirts) which covers the vulnerable shoulders and backs.  Before we have just used floppy wide brimmed hats on babies, and baseball hats on toddlers, though this year I invested in a quick-dry sun hat that will cover little ears as well.  In our house, hats have been non negotiable while outdoors.  It seems that we just transition right from needing a hat to keep warm in the winter to needing one for sun protection in the summer, so the habit is pretty consistent all year long!

Some other methods we use to cover the skin to protect from the sun:

  • Use a stroller with a canopy for the little ones- I love babywearing, but I had to trade my Ergo baby carrier for a stroller for the summer to protect my little one from too much sun on our walks
  • I know they say you can get burned through a t-shirt, but I have never found that to be the case, even with my fair skinned babies. We pick up light colored long sleeve shirts on clearance at the end of winter.
  • Block car windows with blankets- I have missed this a few times and had my babies get red on the arm near the truck window.  I have an inexpensive sun shade that I use when needed.

I hope you are enjoying a sun-filled summer, safely!


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