A few blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer in their lifetime. While a hat and shirt are the most effective at blocking harmful UV rays, a sunscreen that’s effective and safe should also be part of every family’s sun safety toolkit.
EWG recommends sunscreen products that have an SPF of 15 to 50. High SPF sunscreens can convince people to prolong their time in the sun and lead them to neglect reapplying every two hours.
Infants under 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible, as their skin is not yet protected by melanin. Babies who join their families outside should be covered in protective, tightly woven but loose-fitting clothing and wear sun hats. Parents can use a stroller’s canopy or hood to make shade, or use an umbrella.
When choosing sunscreens for infants younger than 6 months old, follow product warnings. Most manufacturers advise against using sunscreens on infants, or advise parents and caregivers to consult a doctor first. The American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants as a last resort when shade can’t be found.
For toddlers and older children, sunscreens are an essential part of a day in the sun. But it’s important to remember that young children’s skin is especially sensitive to allergenic or irritating ingredients. Test sunscreen by applying a small amount on the inside of your child’s wrist the day before you plan to use it. If a rash develops, try another product. Ask your child’s doctor to suggest a product less likely to irritate your child’s skin.
Once you find a non-irritating sunscreen, rub on a generous coating and reapply it often, especially if your child is playing in the water or sweating. When skin gets damp, sunscreens may not work as well as you would expect.
Choosing the right sunscreen from the hundreds of products lining store shelves can be daunting. EWG researchers did the all the work for you and came up with a list of 19 best-scoring sunscreen products for kids:
- Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
- All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
- All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
- Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
- Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30+
- BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
- California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
- Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
- Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
- ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
- Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
Our list of worst-scoring sunscreens is available here.
You also can check out the ratings for almost 1,500 sunscreens, moisturizers and lip balms with SPF in the EWG 2017 Guide to Sunscreens.
For more information about how to stay safe in the sun, use EWG’s sun safety tipsheet.
And don’t miss our sunscreen label decoder.