5 Summer Essentials I Can’t Live Without

It’s summer and this means I’m constantly throwing my go-to stack of protection from the elements in my bag or the stroller before I head out the door. I get asked all the time about my summer essentials—which sunscreens, lotions, bug sprays, hydration supplements, and other warm weather strategies I use to keep myself and my kids from ending up fried and bitten out there, so I thought I’d share!

When I pick my products I look for these criteria: 

  • Non-toxic, organic, and clean (whenever possible)
  • High-performance
  • Science-backed 

I hope this makes your summer a little easier and more fun! See you out there.

1. Sunscreen

A lot of people now know that conventional sunscreen contains active ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octinoxate, and homosalate, that are effective for sun protection, but are also known hormone-disrupting chemicals that are absorbed into the skin.

These chemicals have shown up in breast milk and blood samples and have been linked to everything from dermatitis, to blocking testosterone receptors, to potential impacts for fetal development, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which studies the health and environmental impact of products and their ingredients. They have a great guide on safe sunscreen ingredients if you want a deep dive and a handy database of all the sunscreens they’ve verified as safe. (These “oxy’s” are also harmful to the animals, plants, and fish that consume them after we swim in their ocean and lake habitats.) 

For a while it felt like finding a mineral-based sunscreen that doesn’t cause health issues but is just as effective, non-toxic, AND that also doesn’t make you look like you just applied spackle to your face, was nearly impossible. Thankfully newer brands of non-harmful sunscreen abound these days that are effective and feel good! 

My go-to(s): 

I like Babo Botanicals Super Shield Sunscreen SPF 50 and Babo Botanicals Sensitive Baby Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 for kids. Both use zinc oxide as the active ingredient and are verified safe by the EWG. Importantly, they are light, sheer, rub in easily, and they last!

2. UV clothing 

Even with the best sunscreen, I can be terrible about reapplying—I just forget. 

I also find my kids’ “sunscreen mood” highly variable. Going through the effort to chase them down and reapply—especially if they are in and out of the water—is a struggle I’d like to skip. I love to put UV rash guards on all of us at the beach or pool to set it and forget it. 

My go-to(s): 

These Mott50 rash guards are some of the cutest ones I’ve found for kids and for grownups

I also try not to forget a hat. These Goldwin Light Stretch Hats have style while also being super functional (and easy to pack). 

3. Bug Spray 

When it comes to insect repellent there is a lot of misinformation out there. 

Despite its controversial reputation, DEET is highly effective against mosquitos and ticks and the illnesses they carry. including Zika, West Nile, Malaria, and Lyme disease, according to the EWG. DEET became controversial in the 1980s when studies suggested it might cause adverse health effects. But comprehensive followup research has found “no risks of concern” for people or the environment if applied at less than 30% concentration. 

For kids, “concerns have been raised about DEET’s potential to be neurotoxic to children but follow-up studies have not linked DEET to neurotoxicity,” according to the EWG. Though the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using sparingly on children under 2 years old.

To protect against bites, the most effective move is an insect repellant formulated with DEET, Picaridin, or a chemical called IR3535, according to the EWG. None have been found to be hormone disruptors, cancer causing, or otherwise harmful to health to date. (Avoid foggers and outdoor “bug bombs,” which have been linked to negative health effects.) 

That said, if you are like me and have an occasional “natural or the highway” streak (and want something that smells good) Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can be a good option. Note: it may not last as long as DEET and synthetic options so you may have to reapply—and be careful about oil on clothing and furniture. 

My go-to(s): 

If I’m really out in it and I need something serious, my go-to is Cutter Backwoods Insect Repellent with 25% DEET.

My favorite Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus brand is Murphy’s Naturals or Nantucket Spider, which smells great and is a blend of natural oils. 

4. Hydration 

If you’re outside in the heat (especially if you’re doing something active), the CDC recommends drinking one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes. 

I love to keep electrolyte powders in my bag to put in my and my kids’ water bottles to make staying hydrated easier. We sweat more than we think and dehydration is why you sometimes feel wiped out at the end of the day—it also increases your risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be deadly. 

Electrolyte powders containing sodium and potassium (which help increase your GI tract’s absorption of water) improve hydration and can help reduce your risk of heat exhaustion. Plus, they taste good.

My go-to(s):
I like Endura from Metagenics because it tastes good. (While it has Stevia, it doesn’t have the bitter taste of Stevia which some people including myself don’t love.) It has a complete set of electrolytes, malic acid (great for muscle recovery if you are swimming, hiking, or working out), taurine (which increases the cell’s ability to hold water), and l-glutamine (to improve GI absorption). 

LMNT is a simpler formula for electrolytes, plus stevia. Both work well, so it’s a matter of taste!

5. Aftersun care 

I am not a fan of lotion, in general. Too many ingredients, usually fragrances or synthetic chemicals, and unpredictable absorption. For regular moisturizer, I use body oil. If I’ve had too much sun and want something cooling, I use an aloe gel moisturizer. 

If you find yourself scorched, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends cool showers, ibuprofen, lots of water, and using an aloe-based moisturizer. 

Aloe has anti-inflammatory benefits and while it won’t make a bad sunburn heal faster, it can help soothe the pain and keep you comfortable while your skin heals.

My go-to(s): 

For a bad sunburn, I recommend Babo’s After Sun Soothing Hydrating Aloe Gel or Aloe & Cucumber Soothing Mist
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