My daughter has hated sunscreen ever since she’s had enough self-awareness to know what sunscreen was. As a toddler, she’d run from me as I tried to apply it to her chubby cheeks and dimpled arms, screaming “No meem! No meem!” (meem being her toddler-speak for cream). It would have been funny if it wasn’t so frustrating.
All this is to say, for the parents out there who struggle on a daily basis to properly protect their children from the sun, I get it. Oh Lord, do I get it. Many articles suggest providing long sleeves or other skin-covering garments, which is a great idea for adults but seems like absolute torture for active kids in hot weather. Getting a small child to keep a sunhat on can be almost as challenging as chasing them down with sunblock.
On top of all of this, you can add the complication of finding good natural eco-friendly sunscreens into the mix. Many conventional sunscreen formulations have raised red flags due to their potentially toxic ingredients, which may actually cause more cancer than they prevent (read more here) so it’s not just as easy as choosing whatever is on sale at your grocery store shelves.
Due to health and environmental concerns, natural eco-friendly sunscreens have grown in popularity in recent years and they’re an easy choice for many parents. But unfortunately, some formulas of natural sunscreens are quite thick due to the use of zinc oxide and may take ages to rub into the skin while some never do rub in entirely, leaving a greasy white sheen behind.
I’ve tried many sunscreens over the years as I’ve battled to find one that works. While I’ll be honest and say that time was probably the thing that helped the most when making it easier to apply the sunscreen (my daughter is four-and-a-half now, and much more reasonable), I did also discover a few hidden gems in the world of eco-friendly sunscreens. I thought I should share them with you.
The Best Kid-Friendly and Eco-Friendly Sunscreens
Green Beaver Kids Natural Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 27
This is my favorite sunscreen to date by far. It is lower on the SPF scale than some of the SPF 50 sunscreens for babies out there (as are all of my sunscreen picks, actually), but the ease of application makes Green Beaver Kids a sunscreen that my daughter will always wear. The SPF 27 that she’ll wear is far better than SPF 50 that she won’t, right?
Another reason I’m a fan of Green Beaver is that I’ve always loved the idea of spray sunscreen but hated the aerosols. Sprays can be a godsend for a child who hates applying sunblock and this brand allows you that benefit while avoiding the environmental effects of aerosol cans by using a pump spray instead. It sprays easily, rubs in instantly, and leaves no white sheen behind.
Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Stick SPF30
Spray options can definitely be used on the face (I just spray the sunscreen onto my fingertips and apply), but sunscreen sticks are easy and fun to apply to little faces. I usually make a little game of the application, either doing “war paint” down the nose and across the cheeks or drawing things with the sunscreen stick and then rubbing it in.
A sunscreen stick is also a great option for kids who insist on doing things for themselves. You should still supervise and touch up any areas they miss, but “coloring” on themselves with sunscreen is something even an angsty two-year-old can get behind.
Kiss My Face Kids Mineral SPF30 Natural Organic Sunscreen
This sunscreen landed a spot on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) annual best sunscreen for kids list, which means that you know it’s a brand you can trust to be safe for the environment, your children’s health, and their sensitive skin.
However, it’s also the most traditional mineral sunscreen listed here. This means traditional cream (meem!) application and it does go on with a slight white tint. Admittedly, I have heard some parents say that they like that because it shows if they’ve missed any spots, but for others, especially those with darker skin tones, this could prove off-putting until it’s completely rubbed in.
Finally, if you’ve tried all of these options and then some to no avail, have patience. I promise that applying sunscreen won’t always result in World War III! In the meantime, try to avoid the sun during the hours of 10am-2pm as best you can, provide shade wherever possible, and take heart knowing that you are definitely not alone in your struggles!
Madeleine Somerville is a writer, author, and blogger. Her first book All You Need Is Less was published in April 2014. Her writing has appeared in both print and online outlets, including The Guardian, Earth911, Yahoo!Shine, TreeHugger, and Alternet. She lives in Calgary, Canada with her four-year-old daughter and writes at SweetMadeleine.ca.
Do you have some favorite eco-friendly sunscreens? How do you protect your kids from the summer’s scorching sun? Let us know below or share on Facebook and Twitter!