The Best Sunscreen for Kids -- 5 Great Choices
Wondering what sunscreen to buy to protect your kids' sensitive skin? Experts weigh in on the best choices.
You may typically think of sunscreen and sun risk during balmy beach weather, but even the winter months (think of all that reflective snow on the slopes) should make you seek out the best sunscreen for kids. Cloudy skies and cold weather can provide a feeling that there is less exposure to the sun and ultraviolet (UV) light.
In fact, "UV light penetrates through the clouds and snowy conditions and may increase the risk of sunburn," says Dr. Ann Marqueling, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics and dermatology at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford in California. Nothing ruins an outing or a family vacation like a sunburn -- and don't forget the health risks. So get in the habit of applying it or having your kids apply it year-round.
What Kind of Sunscreen Should You Buy?
"For the best sunscreen for kids, I generally recommend lotions because they provide the most even and consistent coverage," says Dr. Marqueling. Dr. Jack Maypole, an Educational Advisory Board member at The Goddard School in Massachusetts and a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center, agrees.
"Lotions are best, given they allow for a more even application versus roll-ons or sprays. With sprays, kids can inhale ingredients, including propellants and chemicals used to dampen the impact of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) on the skin that can be toxic. Lotions tend to be absorbed less through the skin."
NEED A HAND? Find a summer sitter near you.
However, many parents like the quick convenience of sprays, as they dry faster than lotions when kids are raring to go. Although lotions are preferred, Dr. Marqueling says that sprays are OK when used correctly. "Sprays should be applied close to the skin so that a thin layer of liquid is seen on the skin and is then rubbed in," she says.
Recommendations for Kids
Both doctors recommend using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that provides broad spectrum coverage with protection from both UVA and UVB light. Regarding when you should start applying sunscreen to your kids, Dr. Maypole says, "Routine sunscreen use is OK in kids over 6 months. For babies under 6 months, experts consider sunscreen a less preferred but usable option if it looks like other measures (shady spots, hats, clothing) won't cover it, so to speak."
Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two to three hours and sooner if children are in the water whether they are wearing waterproof lotion or not. A higher SPF does not necessarily mean the sun protection lasts longer than a lower SPF. Both will still need to be reapplied every two to three hours to be most effective.
Dr. Maypole recommends using sunscreens that contain metal oxides, such as titanium or zinc, which are safest and to avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate and especially nanoparticles. "Nanoparticles are marketed for their tendency to minimize the whitening, clown makeup appearance of traditional metal-based sunblocks. Why avoid them? Simply put, concerns remain that their impact on the body, and more notably, on little people, is not yet understood." He says that until more research is done, parents should avoid them.
Armed with all of this knowledge, what should we use on our kids? Below are five of the best sunscreens for kids:
- Mustela SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen Lotion (Baby)
This is a lotion with all minerals that's safe for kids' faces and body. It offers UVA and UVB broad spectrum coverage and is approved by the Melanoma International Foundation. It contains no nanoparticles.
- The Honest Company Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
This lotion is all-natural and mineral-based, with UVA and UVB broad spectrum coverage and no nanoparticles.
- Thinkbaby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
This lotion has UVA and UVB broad spectrum coverage, with 100-percent child-safe ingredients and no nanoparticles.
- Kiss My Face Mineral Sunscreen For Kids SPF 30
This lotion is a natural mineral sunscreen that has UVA and UVB broad spectrum coverage and is great for kids' sensitive skin. It contains no nanoparticles.
- Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen Kids Spray SPF 40
For those who desire a spray sunscreen, this one is free of nanoparticles and has the desired UVA and UVB broad spectrum coverage. It's also very nourishing for a child's skin.
Now that you're sun-safe, check out 101 Beach Activities for Kids!
Laura Richards is a Boston-based freelance writer and the mother of four boys including a set of identical twins. She has written for numerous parenting publications and is the president of On Point Communications. Her parenting links can be found on her Modern Mothering website.