What to do about Sun Protection?


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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About Cara

Cara is the main author here at Health Home and Happiness. She loves the health and energy that eating well and playing well provides and has a goal to share what she's learned with as many families interested in making healthy changes as possible.

She helps other families achieve health in simple steps with the GAPS Starter Package, The Empowered Mother Pregnancy Resource, and helps them stock their freezer for busy days with Grain-Free Freezer Cooking Guide.


  1. I just bought some organic, chemical free Sun Protect that’s made locally (I’m in southern Idaho) and I’m really happy with it. My kids live outside in the summer so sun screen is a must. It’s made with coconut, seasame, and carrot oils, aloe vera gel, cocoa butter, lavender essential oil, and titanium dioxide. I got SPF 20 but they also have 45. If anyone is interested in it youcan go to posergy.com and check it out.

  2. Barbara via Facebook says:

    Coconut Oil, Cocoa Butter, Shea Butter, Sal Butter and if being out longer than your skin can take John Master’s Mineral Suntan Lotion

  3. We’ve found that pure 100% aloe vera gel actually works pretty well for us!

  4. I use raspberry seed oil as a totally fab sun protector! works splendid on my little red heads!!


  5. I’ve been wondering too. I did see a California baby sunblock but not sure, it’s so expensive. My daughter burns too and I need something for her. The hats and the SPF shirt is not enough if you’re gonna be out for a while, in my opinion. Someone might have a homemade version of sunblock.

  6. I do not use any sunblock/sunscreen. They ALL have chemicals that are bad. The skin is the biggest organ of our body and all that crap gets into the blood stream. My kids don’t sunburn even here in CO. But they do eat plenty of healthy fats (pastured butter, beef tallow, lard.)

  7. Mary via Facebook says:

    http://www.uvskinz.com They are local to us (talked to them this morning) but ship worldwide. We love their product. We ddon’t hav eto use any sunscreen with the shirts and hats, and my children LOVE to wear them- even chose to hav ethem over traditional swimsuits.

  8. Charlotte says:

    This article pretty much sums up my own views. I never really use sunscreen on the kids who are fairly dark skinned. I have some Dr Mercola sunscreen for myself as i am very fair and burn easily, however suitable clothing/staying in the shade, etc mean i very rarely use it. I would also add that it is common sense to stay out of the direct mid-day sun wherever possible.

  9. As a car seat technician, I have to say that the suction sunshades for vehicle windows are not safe. In a collision, they can and will come off and become a projectile with the potential to serious injure your (child) occupants. If you feel you must have a sunshade on your child’s window and having the windows professionally tinted is not an option, please use and item like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Safety-1st-48920-Sun-Shade/dp/B002TMSXF6/ref=sr_1_1?s=baby-products&ie=UTF8&qid=1308852519&sr=1-1 instead. However, I have had my own four year old peel it off and toss it over the baby’s face…. I prefer to just tint the windows darker when possible.

    • Good call! We extended rear face but I could be much better about projectiles being in the car. Thanks for the reminder.

  10. Cynpen76 says:

    I really appreciate all the info in the posting and the comments. I agree that our diet can protect us. I read up on the sunscreens a couple years ago and I could never put it on me or my family again!
    My fair skinned bunch tries very hard to do indoor activities during the hottest/brightest part of the day, but sometimes we end up out during midday hours anyway. We found some great sun-savvy swimwear at this site

  11. My son and I don’t burn as easily as we used to before the SCD diet. I suspect inflammation may make us more susepitable to sun damage. And while we are still “pigment challenged”, we actually get a little color from the sun now other than pink.

  12. Hi,
    I’ve recently been learning about this topic and for over a year now my diet now has plenty of traditional fats like you described. I used to always avoid the sun as my skin would very quickly get itchy with red blotches. Since I’ve improved my diet to be more like WAPF and GAPS I now don’t burn so easily but I still get itchy skin after sun exposure. Any idea what this is? Allergy to sun?? Toxins from my body in skin causing this reaction? I wonder if anyone else experiences this?

    • This is due to liver congestion – it happens to me and this is what my gaps practioner says – But I did gt relief from a suPplement but can’t remember what it was!

    • Katrina says:

      My dermitologist says it’s sun poisioning…

  13. I have heard that the sun is a detoxifier. That may be why it makes you have itchy skin afterwards.

  14. michelle waite says:

    I live in Portland, Oregon, which means we don’t have to worry about too much sun often. I also have olive skin. We ride bikes often, spend a lot of time outside and I am running and training for a half marathon. This gives my family and I plenty of time for getting sun exposure and rarely getting burned. We are just hitting our first spell of 80 degree weather of the year and my tan already looks amazing (not to be immodest). I love the sun and I love my tan in the summer. I am also over 40 and have very few wrinkles, so it is not causing aging.

  15. Evan Griffin says:

    I always drink glasses of water 6-8 times a day to avoid dehydration…That is how i defend myself from extreme heat…

  16. Katrina says:

    Love it! We make our own sunscreen (and use it sparingly as you do) because we live in Phoenix where it is hard to avoid the sun! We add zinc oxide to whatever lotion we want (usually organic and etc.) – super easy and less toxic. I have to say that my already fair girls look a bit white this way though I don’t mind because I know its healthier.

    • Ha, we just moved to AZ and my daughter has been doing great, but my son has been getting a little red so I’ve been using the Neutrogena on his nose and cheeks before swimming. Let me know if you want to get together- I can’t wait to meet my readers in the area!

  17. Update on us- we moved to AZ 3 weeks ago and it looks like the omega 3s are really paying off! I got both kids long sleeve sun shirts from Costco, that they wear with trunks with hats.

    We’re out more often than not between 11 and 2- it’s just how our day ends up working that we’re out at that time for 30-60 minutes in the pool, and my daughter doesn’t burn at all, I did use a little of the Nutrogena sunblock stick on my son, just his nose and under his eyes.

    I’m excited that diet can be so helpful!

  18. It seems like I have tried every sunscreen, natural and unnatural, that I’ve heard off. If I didn’t use sunscreen, would burn and peel. If I did use it, I would get tiny blisters that would burst and peel. I finally decided to try essential oils. Looked up on the internet and saw that sesame seed oil is a natural sunscreen. I mixed that with lavender oil. This works for me. I’m old enough not to care that it’s shiny and that it does sweat off. It’s cheap and I don’ have any reactions. If I’m going to be standing in line or at a street fair all day, I’ll put a little zinc oxide on my nose, cheekbones and very tops of my shoulders. No blisters, no burns, cheap and easy and smells good. (You can put other oils in it for scent, but not too much.) If you don’t mind reapplying to your kids, this is lots safer than any sunscreen on the market.

  19. Rebecca Volkov says:

    In what form do you eat your cod liver oil? Do you give it to your children and how do you get them to eat it? I tried the oil and could barely stand it. It has been sitting in the fridge for months, but I know it is so good for me!

  20. Cher Shives says:

    Hi…I eat healthy food and at the same time, I drink glasses of water to prevent dehydration…

  21. I just came across this article. I am allergic to most sunblocks and burn in the shade so I am always looking for more information on the topic. Thankfully my DD almost never burns.

  22. Thats some illuminating article…

  23. Cynthia Smith says:

    I love and agree with your ideas on this topic. :-) I just wanted to share one suggestion: Big floppy sun hat on mama protects baby being worn on the front from to much sun just as it would protect your chest. :-)

  24. Thank you for this posting. It’s nice to see people being sensible about getting vitamin D. I have ulcerative colitis and had a terrible flare up back in 2003 while living in Washington, D.C. The doctor told me that I had no choice but to go on prednisone to get it under control. That same year we moved to equatorial Africa. I tried the SCD diet for several months but found it extremely difficult to stick to in a developing country where resources for alternative foods were nonexistent. However, between my brief foray into the SCD and all of the vitamin D my body was making from being so close to the equator, my symptoms started to clear up. Except for a brief colon cancer scare that turned out to be a false alarm, I have been in drug-free remission since 2004. I wholeheartedly believe that vitamin D (along with an SCD-like diet) is the key to my health.

  25. I think you are really over-exaggerating the danger of the sun. If your child has a very healthy diet (including cod liver oil) then it is absoloutly okay to go in the sun for an hour without a hat. People who live in climates in which winter occurs absoloutely need to have the sun shine on their bare skin when it’s possible. As for sun screen, the best one to use is simply pure coconout oil – there aren’t any toxic chemicals and it’s an excellent mositurizer as well; this is what I use when my 2 year old is going to be in the sun for longer than one hour. Both me and my toddler are blonde, blue-eyed and have fair skin and we do not experience sun-burns. When the body is healthy and not filled with junk, it benefits greatly from sun light.

    • Be careful not to overgeneralize. My daughter and I don’t burn (unless we’re out for like 8 hours in the AZ sun with no hat) but my son does. They’re both blond hair and blue/green eyes, fair skin.

  26. I love the Skin Deep site, too! This year the reports are even better! http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/top-sun-safety-tips/

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