After a long spring of being cooped up indoors, everyone is itching to get outside and spend as much time there as possible.
This means a safe, effective sun protection strategy is more important than ever. Just a few blistering sunburns in childhood can have lasting consequences, potentially leading to the development later in life of skin cancer and other skin damage. But there are things you can do to help prevent your little ones from dangerous and uncomfortable burns.
One way to protect your child from sunburn is a safe and effective sunscreen, so make sure to apply an adequate amount and reapply it often.
There are hundreds of sunscreens to choose from and it’s hard to know which ones are safe and effective. We’re here to help: Each year our team of scientists carefully assesses many of the options on the market and rates their safety and efficacy.
When you choose a sunscreen for your kids, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Infants under 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. If you must bring your baby outside, make sure to cover them in protective clothing of a tightly woven fabric that fits loosely. A stroller hood or umbrella should be used as extra protection.
Most sunscreen manufacturers recommend against using their products on children in this age group, so don’t make a habit out of it, but the American Academy of Pediatrics says that small amounts of sunscreen can be used on infants, if necessary.
For children older than 6 months, sunscreen is an important and necessary part of daily sun protection. Younger children have skin that’s especially sensitive to irritating and allergenic ingredients. We recommend testing a new sunscreen one day before use by applying a small amount to the inside of your child’s wrist. If a rash develops, avoid using that product. If you have trouble finding a sunscreen that doesn’t irritate your child, check with your pediatrician for advice.
We recommend you look for mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If you choose a non-mineral sunscreen, try to find one with avobenzone, which offers good UVA protection. Remember to apply it liberally and frequently.
Here are the 16 best-scoring sunscreens marketed specifically for use on children (though they will work for adults, too):
- Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
- All Good Kid’s Sunscreen Butter Stick, SPF 50+
- Badger Baby Active Sunscreen Cream, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30
- Erbaviva Organic Skincare Baby Sun Stick, Lavender Chamomile, SPF 30
- Just Skin Food Baby Beach Bum Sunscreen Stick, SPF 31
- Olita Kids Mineral Sunscreen Sunstick, SPF30
- Raw Elements Baby + Kids Sunscreen Lotion Tin, SPF 30
- Star Naturals Baby Natural Sunscreen Stick, SPF 25
- SunBioLogic Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
- Suntribe Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Vanilla Yum Yum, SPF 30
- thinkbaby Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
- thinksport Kids Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
- TruBaby Water & Play Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
- TruKid Sunny Days Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- UV Natural Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
- Waxhead Sun Defense Baby Zinc Oxide Vitamin E + D Enriched Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35
This list doesn’t include sunscreens that are sprays, have an SPF above 50+ or contain oxybenzone, fragrance or retinyl palmitate – all of which we suggest you avoid.
Remember, sunscreens are just one tool to protect against sunburns. In addition to using safe and effective sunscreen, also make sure you protect your children’s skin with clothing. Getting your child to wear as much protective clothing as possible, plus a hat, can significantly reduce their burn risk. And don’t forget sunglasses! Eyes aren’t immune to harmful UVA and UVB rays.
For more ways to stay safe in the sun, check out these sun safety tips.