No matter your age, sun protection is important — and the earlier you start this skin-saving habit, the better. So while your kids may try to squirm away when you come at them with a bottle of sunscreen, it’s worth it to win this battle, because let’s face it: a kid who gets a sunburn is not a happy kid. (Not to mention, sunburns from childhood are linked to an increased risk of melanoma later in life.)
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for sun protection state that the best defense is limiting sun exposure with shade and clothing. They also recommend children over 6 months use a sunscreen that’s at least SPF 15 or higher. Sunscreen should also be reapplied every two hours, as well as after swimming.
Most sunscreens on the market fall into two categories: mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide as the active ingredient, and traditional, or chemical, sunscreens, where a longer list of active ingredients absorb the sun’s rays. Mineral sunscreens have historically been chalky and hard to spread, thanks to the zinc oxide, but recent developments have made them easier to spread and less likely to leave a white cast behind — and many parents prefer them because of the limited list of ingredients.
No matter what kind you choose, make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Check out our top picks for sun protection.
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1. Thinksport Kids Safe Sunscreen
There’s a lot to like about this Thinksport zinc oxide sunscreen: It applies evenly and absorbs without leaving an oily residue. It offers SPF 50+ protection that’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. And it provides UVA and UVB broad-spectrum coverage. But perhaps best of all, it has an excellent rating from the Environmental Working Group for ingredients that are least likely to have negative impacts on humans or the environment.
2. Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lotion
This easy-spreading zinc oxide sunscreen is fragrance- and dye-free while providing SPF 50 protection. Formulated to be good for babies, toddlers and kids (plus their adults!), the sunscreen is good for sensitive skin and even contains nourishing ingredients like coconut oil. It’s water-resistant and offers both UVA and UVB broad-spectrum sun protection.
3. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion (Pack of 3)
Babies have especially delicate skin, so you’ll want to take care to ensure whatever you use is gentle as well as effective. Neutrogena’s Pure & Free Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion provides broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection from both UVA and UVB rays and is free of fragrances and dyes as well as other ingredients that might irritate a baby’s skin. It’s also accepted by the National Eczema Association for sensitive skin.
4. Australian Gold Sunscreen Lotion for Kids
If you prefer not to use mineral sunscreens, this chemical sunscreen offers UVA and UVB broad-spectrum SPF 50 protection and even has aloe vera to soothe skin. While there have been leaps made in zinc oxide sunscreens, non-zinc sunscreens like Australian Gold’s Sunscreen Lotion for Kids remain easier to spread and apply, and some parents may prefer to stick with what they know. While this has chemicals as active ingredients, the formula is still good for sensitive skin.
5. Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Water Resistant Sunscreen Stick
Stick sunscreen can be a handy alternative to regular sunscreen. It glides onto skin and is great for faces, ears, scalps, and overall touch-ups — and as the name suggests, Neutrogena’s Wet Skin Kids version evens works on wet skin, making reapplying after swimming easier. This stick provides broad-spectrum SPF 70 and is hypoallergenic.