Finding the best sunscreen for kids and babies can be tricky, as every child may have different reactions to certain ingredients, consistencies or application methods. Our skincare experts have already established optimal sunscreens for sensitive skin as well as products made with entirely natural formulas. But you may be wondering if these same picks are engineered with children in mind, especially if you’ve been worried about recent headlines around sunscreen safety.
Officials within the Food and Drug Administration recently made some updates to guidelines for sunscreen manufacturers with top safety issues front and center. Because there is still room for future regulation and further restriction on active ingredients that may enter the bloodstream, “we recommend that parents use sunscreens with mineral actives such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide on their kids,” explains Birnur Aral, Ph.D., executive director of the Beauty, Health & Sustainability Lab.
Experts and analysts within the GH Institute conduct thorough tests on all types of sunscreens for adults, including those made with natural and mineral formulas, zinc oxide SPF, sunscreens for the face as well as more recommendations for body application. While our experts didn’t explicitly test sunscreens on kids or babies in large-scale consumer studies, they used established criteria and expertise when evaluating the products below, as well as consulting with real parents and dermatologists to curate a list of the best sunscreens for little ones. Verified public reviews from customers were also taken into account when creating our in-depth best kids and babies’ sunscreen ranking.
If your little one enjoys being in the water with you on a lazy sunny day, this easy-lather lotion by Thinkbaby makes use of zinc oxide to keep them safe in the water for over an hour. A winner within our 2021 Parenting Awards, parents who provided us real-world product feedback indicated that the soothing lotion lacked any strong scent or other irritations for prolonged use on babies. Wizemann and other chemists within our GH Institute labs also appreciated the short list of inactive ingredients on this special formula.
From a brand known for skincare products tailored to sensitive skin and eczema, this Mustela mineral SPF with pure zinc is approved by the National Eczema Association. Many Amazon reviewers commented that the fragrance-free lotion doesn’t cause any irritation. “My 12-month-old struggles with bouts of eczema on her face…this sunscreen did not bother her at all,” one reported.
Parents love the protection this Blue Lizard sunscreen offers and the reminder to apply: The bottle turns pink when it’s in the presence of UV rays to remind you when it’s time to reapply. It shields your kid’s skin from the sun by using a combination of mineral zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “I loved that it didn’t give me that burning sensation I have always gotten from sunscreens,” writes one Amazon reviewer.
This stick-form alternative to the face-friendly formula we highlighted above is heralded as a travel hero by many of its 1,900+ reviewers. Just like its lotion-based counterpart, this stick sunscreen is designed to be gentle and easily glide on to at-risk areas of the face, arms and legs. Reviewers swear that sweat or moisture trickles into the eyes aren’t irritating or stinging,
✔️ Opt for mineral sunscreens, advises Dendy Engelman, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. Most experts agree that mineral actives are better for sensitive skin types in general. Plus, the FDA announced last year that only two ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — are considered safe and effective for sunscreen use. It’s also important to note that there are still 12 sunscreen ingredients that require more data before the FDA can call them safe and effective.
✔️ Choose lotions over sprays. When choosing the type of formulation, since applying spray sunscreen is difficult enough on adults, you’re better off with lotion and stick formulas for kids and babies. Plus, “spray sunscreens don’t tend to protect as well as lotions,” Dr. Engelman says.
The right way to apply sunscreen on kids and babies:
The general rule of thumb for babies younger than 6 months is to try to avoid the sun as much as possible and to consult a doctor before using sunscreen on them. For kids, you’ll want to have it on their skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. “Apply a lot more than you think,” advises Dr. Engelman. As in, use a golf-ball-size amount for their body and enough to fill a shot glass for the face (just over 1oz). Reapplying often and after swimming or sweating: “If you’re applying the correct amount every two hours, then a 6-ounce bottle may only last the first couple days of your beach vacation,” adds Dr. Engelman.