How to find sunscreen that won't hurt your kids

Jun 2, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. ET
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Looking for chemical-free sunscreen to keep your little ones safe from harmful burns? We've collected the top kid-friendly mineral sunscreens that go on easy and protect tender skin.

Everyone agrees that kids need to be protected from the sun, but not everyone agrees on how. "The debate on sunscreens is heating up this summer as there are growing concerns about the chemicals in sunscreens and their impact on human health," says Sherry Torkos, a pharmacist and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.

Why is mineral sunscreen popular?

"One chemical found in many sunscreens, oxybenzone, has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage. Oxybenzone — as well as homosolate and octinoxate — are passed on into breast milk in women who are breastfeeding," says Torkos. "While the impact of these chemicals on health is under further study, many people are looking into other options for sun protection."

Mineral sunscreens use ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect the sun's rays from the surface of your skin. Unlike chemical sunscreens, which can take 20 minutes to absorb and begin working, mineral sunscreens work right away. Mineral sunscreen has become popular with families looking for healthier, kid-friendly alternatives to chemical sunscreen.

Natural mineral sunscreens for the whole family

Sunology Kids SPF 50

Sunology kids SPF 50 |

Appropriate for babies 6 months and older, Sunology Kids SPF 50 is a water-resistant sunscreen that goes on sheer and odorless. Sunology sent me a tube to check out and I had no problem applying it to myself or my kids. Some mineral sunscreen formulas are difficult to spread, but this felt smooth and moisturizing. (Sunology, $15)

Suntegrity Unscented Body Sunscreen SPF 30

Suntegrity Unscented Body Sunscreen SPF 30 |

Founded by a woman who lost her mother to melanoma, Suntegrity Unscented Body Sunscreen SPF 30 uses non-nano size zinc oxide to provide broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. This fragrance-free formula is appropriate for babies and kids, but also contains all the antioxidants and amino acids that adults are seeking for skin repair. (Suntegrity Skin Care, $24)

Mustela SPF 50+ Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion

Mustela SPF 50+ Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion |

Mustela skin care is known for being gentle on baby's skin. Their SPF 50+ Broad Spectrum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion provides water- and sweat-resistant broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays. Ask your pediatrician if it's appropriate for babies under 6 months of age. (Mustela USA, $22)

Ocean Elements Sheer Daily Moisture SPF 30

Ocean Elements Sheer Daily Moisture SPF 30 |

Created by a dermatologist, Ocean Elements Sheer Daily Moisture SPF 30 isn't marketed for kids, but it's appropriate for ages 6 months and up. Containing cocoa seed butter, sweet almond oil and green tea in addition to ingredients that offer sun protection, this is a mineral sunscreen for Mom that will work just fine on toddlers and kids in a pinch. (Ocean Elements, $38)

Use shade and clothing with SPF protection

Take advantage of shade

BeachBUB |

When you're outdoors with your kids, seek shade. When you can't find shade, make your own. BeachBUB is a portable beach umbrella stand that lets you set up an umbrella even in windy conditions at the beach. Use it with your favorite umbrella with built-in sun protection. (beachBUB, $25)

Dress your kids appropriately

UVSkinz |

Even the best sunscreen has to be applied by hand, and wiggly little kids universally hate being covered with it. Save yourself some time and money by investing in clothing with sun protection. UVSkinz swim shirts, created by a mother who lost her young husband to melanoma, are certified UFP 50+. Just throw them on and go. (UVSkinz, $25)

More sun safety

Should kids wear sunglasses?
Is sunscreen a waste of time?
How to prevent children's sunburns