Did you know that preventing excessive sun exposure is even more important for the health of your kids? A bad burn in childhood can greatly increase your risk for melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) later in life.
This makes it crucial to cover your child’s exposed skin with sunscreen, reapply frequently, and remember to do it every time they go outside. This goes for babies too. So if your child is still young, check out SimplySunSafe’s breakdown of the best sunscreen for babies.
In addition to this compelling reason to keep your little ones constantly slathered in sunscreen lotions, it’s important to remember how much more sensitive children’s skin can be compared to our own. The barrier provided by the skin is thinner in childhood, leaving kids more susceptible to other types of skin irritations like allergies.
How then, can a parent win? You know it’s important to consistently use sunscreen, but a growing body of evidence suggests that using too many chemicals on your kids early in life can contribute to overly sensitive skin and allergy issues.
It may be more difficult than grabbing the first sunscreen product you see, but this is certainly not an impossible task. This guide will give you the tools you need to find a high quality sunscreen to protect your little ones while they enjoy some quality time in the sunshine.
After thorough research into the requirements for sunscreen to be effective for kids, SimplySunSafe recommends BurnOut Kids Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for kids. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for kids.
To make sure your child’s skin can get the sensitive and thorough sun protection it needs, there are several must-have features you should look for in your kids next sunscreen:
Broad Spectrum Protection
When making your mental checklist for the perfect sunscreen to use when junior goes out to play, don’t forget broad spectrum protection.
Broad spectrum refers to the type of protection a sunscreen product is able to offer, in terms of what UV radiation it protects you from. This is usually indicated on the bottle with a ‘broad spectrum’ or ‘UVA/UVB protection’ logo to let you know you are getting a more comprehensive level of protection.
What do you mean UV radiation?!
The sun sheds different types of radiation as a natural part of its lifecycle. Some of that is visible to us as the sunlight that brightens our morning. Other types of radiation aren’t visible to the naked eye and need special tools to be measured and studied.
These fall on the ultraviolet spectrum, which is where the UV part of the acronyms come from. When looking at sunscreen, the rays a broad spectrum product shields you from are UVA and UVB rays.
UVB rays are responsible for visible skin damage. This is the type of thing you notice as you’re leaving the beach for the day, or when you set up camp after a full day of hiking.
Your skin may be reddened or darkened and in cases of severe exposure these sun burns can also blister and cause illness.
When you want to remember UVB rays, remember: B is for Burning.
UVA rays are more subtle. This damage you typically won’t notice until it is too late to reverse. UVA rays actually cause damage to the DNA of your skin cells.
This damage happens naturally when you age – it’s what results in sagging skin, wrinkles, darkening or skin spots, thickening of the skin, and other signs of aging. UVA exposure accelerates that process, and in doing so put your skin at risk for DNA mutation that may form cancerous cells.
When you want to remember UVA rays, remember: A is for Aging.
Best SPF for kids
The SPF rating of your sunscreen is also important – though perhaps not important in the way many people think. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. This rating is a way to gauge, roughly, how reliable or effective a product’s sun protection will be.
With SPF the numbered rating is supposed to tell you how much longer you can go outside (while wearing the product) without burning compared to if you had used no protection at all.
Theoretically this means that an SPF 30 product allows you to stay outside 30 times longer than normal. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds.
For example SPF 30 isn’t twice as strong as SPF 15, and no sunscreen will be effective for more than a few hours. Environmental circumstances like humidity, perspiration, or very bright sunlight may mean that a sunscreen is effective for an even shorter amount of time before you begin to burn. So too can your kid’s individual level of photosensitivity affect how well a sunscreen works.
Will all this new info in mind, take a look at the table below. It showcases a way of looking at SPF rating that will be a whole lot more useful to you when you’re shopping for sunscreen.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see from the table, there’s not a whole lot of benefit in using lower-SPF products with single digit ratings.
There also isn’t as much benefit as you might think in choosing SPF 50+ rather SPF 30.
In fact, most doctors agree that SPF 30 in sufficient protection for most of us. The only exceptions would be particularly fair or photosensitive skin.
If that’s your child and you want to go for the extra bit of protection please be sure not to pay an arm and a leg for it! After all, it’s (at most) only a extra 2% sun protection.
Physical is better than chemical
So far, we’ve covered what type of protection you need, and how to ensure that the protection you’re getting is enough for your needs. Now let’s take a look at the different ways that sunscreen manufacturers achieve this protection–this is an important point I wouldn’t recommend compromising on so it may narrow your list of possibilities fairly quickly.
Sunscreens glean their ability to shield you from sun’s harm through the active ingredients that they use. These ingredients fall broadly into two categories: physical sunscreens and chemical sunscreens.
Chemical sunscreens work by soaking down into your skin and absorbing the incoming UV rays before they have a chance to inflict harm. These active ingredients are usually used in groups to provide optimal protection and can include: avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone.
Chemical sunscreens are not effective for the first 15-20 minutes after application, as it takes about this long for them to properly soak into the skin. Other than the included wait period, application is typically fairly easy with these chemical formulas – they go on smoothly and dry nearly transparent.
With continued exposure (as you would get if you use sunscreen regularly) the ingredients can cause allergies and may cross into your bloodstream to interfere with the endocrine system.
Physical sunscreens can be used together or separately, as both physical active ingredients (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) provide broad spectrum protection. If a sunscreen uses just one ingredient, it’ll usually be zinc over titanium as zinc is naturally better at screening UVA rays than titanium.
These mineral formulas sit on top of the skin, and work as a barrier, impenetrable to uv rays. The rays bounce harmlessly away and your skin stays protected.
These are effective immediately after application, and the ingredients are also known to be calming to skin. In fact, zinc-rich creams can help with a variety of other skin conditions as well.
Choose lotions or sticks over sprays
Especially where little ones are concerned, it’s always best to choose lotion or stick-form sunscreen formulations over sprays. I know, I know. You totally wanted to find the absolute best spray sunscreen for your kids.
However, sprays sunscreens are a bad idea. When you mix them with little kids, the danger is even more serious. SheKnows explains in detail the two main dangers of spray sunscreen: the thickness and the aerosol delivery method.
The ultra-thin formula of spray sunscreens is less of a concern than their delivery method, but still a valid point against their use.
In making a sunscreen formula that is light enough to be sprayed on, and that can dry clear, you are thinning it out so much that it begins to bring into question the formula’s ability to effectively shield your skin from the sun.
Even if you try and stick with physical sunscreens, aerosol applications are no good. This may be obvious to some folks when it comes to the dangers of inhaling chemical sunscreen ingredients, but what’s the big deal with the all natural mineral ones?
Well, those ingredients may be safe enough for topical use, but inhalation is a much more direct form of exposure that poses toxicity concerns – particularly among children who are more likely to accidentally inhale a lot of product.
Particularly if you are looking for the best sunscreen for children with sensitive skin, it can be helpful to pay attention to the inactive ingredients and look for a sunscreen that has a simple formula overall.
This isn’t a must for every child, but it is certainly worth bearing in mind if you child displays a tendency toward extra sensitivities.
How ‘simple’ a formula is may not always be so clear though. Say you view simple formula as those with the fewest ingredients. There may be an 8-ingredient sunscreen that uses only harsh chemical, or there may be a 22-ingredients sunscreen that uses a variety of natural extracts.
The same goes for chemical versus natural ingredients. When it comes to the product labels and ingredients list, even natural products may be hiding under a complicated name.
For example, beeswax is very commonly used in sunscreens. It’s also very commonly labelled as cera alba rather than beeswax.
The bottom line?
If you’ve got a little one whose skin you really want to baby, take some time to become more familiar with common sunscreen ingredients. This way, you’ll be able to recognize them across different names and can use that knowledge as a guide when choosing simple sunscreen formulas that work for your child.
Best Sunscreen for Kids Comparison
|BurnOut Kids Sunscreen||Alba Botanica Kids Mineral||Badger Kids Sunscreen||Thinksport for Kids||Kiss My Face Kids Defense|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (18.6%)||Zinc Oxide (14.5%) & Titanium Dioxide (2%)||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)||Zinc Oxide (20.0%)||Zinc Oxide (6.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.0%)|
|Water resistance||40 minutes||80 minutes||40 minutes||80 minutes||80 minutes|
5 Best Sunscreens for Kids
After through research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for kids.
All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are water resistant for 40-80 minutes, and are lotions.
BurnOut’s Kids formula definitely takes the cake as best kids sunscreen. This product offers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 via just one active ingredient: zinc oxide (18.6%).
This high concentration of zinc oxide is reassuring in a sunscreen meant for your little ones, letting you know this product will provide tough protection.
It’s also water resistant for 40 minutes, so your kids can enjoy a dip in the pool without having their sunscreen melt off and turn the water into an oil slick.
This particular formula is especially designed for sensitive skin so you can rest assured that it won’t become an irritant to your child’s skin. It won’t clog pores, and is fragrance-free.
The lack of added fragrance may mean that this sunscreen has a stronger ‘herbal’ smell than you’re used to from sunscreen products, but that’s a good thing! Think of it as a reminder that your sunscreen is a wholesome product and not so chemically processed.
Please note: you may see some concerning reviews online regarding the efficacy of BurnOut products, saying that they changed their formula and it is now unusable, etc.
I looked into these, and it seems that several years ago BurnOut changed their formula, which is what sparked these negative reviews. BurnOut did, however, listen to their customer base and has since reverted to the more popular and dependable formula – don’t let old reviews make you wary of a great product!
- Good value
- Water resistant for 40 minutes
- Thicker formula
Especially when talking about staying within the budget, Alba Botanica’s Very Emollient Kids Mineral Sunscreen is the best waterproof sunscreen for kids’ face.
The 4oz tube is shockingly inexpensive considering that this product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 with zinc oxide (14.5%) and titanium dioxide (2.0%) as the active ingredients.
With the only available bottle size being just 4 ounces, you may find yourself repurchasing frequently if using this as an all-over sunscreen. Luckily, the price is more than reasonable so it won’t hurt your pocketbook too much.
It’s water resistant for a full 80 minutes. This impressive resistance makes it a perfect choice for those of you with water babies who seem to be happier swimming than they are on dry land.
Alba’s Very Emollient product line is known for a luxurious texture. It comes out easily without being too thin and watery, but once you start rubbing it in it thins out considerably and appears easily absorbed by the skin.
This formula is also kind to skin, providing moisture and sun protection with a very low risk of irritation.
This is the official sunscreen of the Mets and even comes recommended by the national Skin Cancer foundation. If you want an inexpensive solution that you can rely on in a pinch, Alba Botanica is a good place to look.
- Water resistant 80 minutes
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Small bottle
Arguably, one of the best organic sunscreens for kids is Badger’s Broad Spectrum Kids sunscreen formula. This product is 100% natural and 98% organic, truly showing the company’s commitment to making a superior product for both the customer and the environment.
This sunscreen offers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using just zinc oxide (18.75%) as the main ingredient.
The sunscreen is scented, but it’s done with natural ingredients rather than chemical fragrance additives. As a result, the tangerine and vanilla scent is pleasant but understated.
It’s also water resistant for up to 40 minutes. Even if you aren’t planning on being in the water, if you’re taking the kids out to play for the day a sunscreen product with water resistance can help preserve the product’s effectiveness through perspiration.
The high concentration of active ingredients does give you a thicker formula that may require some additional rubbing to distribute evenly across skin’s surface.
If you have touch-sensitive skin then the additional rubbing may cause minor irritation, but the formula itself is hypoallergenic. In fact, users report it working well for a variety of sensitive skin issues ranging from general sensitivity to moderate eczema.
- Moderately priced
- High concentration of active ingredients
- Thick formula
- White cast
Thinksport’s Kids sunscreen formula is the 4th pick for best kids sunscreen. This product provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 50+ using zinc oxide (20%) as the only active ingredient.
It’s water resistant for a full 80 minutes, ideal for long days spent outside where perspiration and water exposure can drastically reduce the effectiveness of traditional sunscreen products.
Thinksport is a great company to purchase from because they genuinely care about their customers. They seem to be consistently striving for the best products possible so they can provide you with premium protection.
In fact, Thinksport was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements – in addition to being rate a ‘1’ product on the EWG’s website.
Thinksport for kids comes in two size options, the 3 ounce and 6 ounce. If your young ones are active and love the sun, go with the 6 ounce tube as it provides greater value per ounce and you won’t have to buy new tubes as frequently.
- Good value
- High concentration of active ingredients
- High SPF
- Thick formula
- Requires rubbing to avoid white cast
The name says it all: Kiss My Face Organics Kids sunscreen is a serious contender for the best sunscreen for children’s face.
It doesn’t produce a pronounced white cast, so your little one won’t look as if they’ve got a good start on clown makeup. It provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 through 6% each of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
The good news is that it’s easy to spread for full coverage. However, with a lower concentration of active ingredients, you may find that you need to use more of it for dependable sun protection.
The formula is great for sensitive skin and even uses 87% organic ingredients as certified by the NSF. It’s also rated water resistant for up to 80 minutes, so you can use it on your kids when they’ll be in and out of the water, without worry.
Even with all this protection, and a cruelty-free formula, the sunscreen is still very moderately priced. It’s not as inexpensive as Alba Botanica’s budget-friendly price tag, but it provides good value for the money.
This is, all considered, a solid sunscreen choice. The only reason it’s last on this list of recommendations is the low concentration of active ingredients.
- Moderately priced
- Water resistant for 80 minutes
- Low concentration of active ingredients
I hope this guide has been helpful to you in terms of helping to focus in specific important aspects when choosing a good sunscreen. If not, or if you feel like I missed an opportunity to share a great kids sunscreen you know about: tell me!
While SimplySunSafe recommends BurnOut Kids Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for kids, it’s important to remember that everybody is different. As such you may find that you need to try a few different sunscreens from this list before you find the perfect choice for you and your kids.
If you’ve got a sunscreen for your child but still need one for yourself, check out our guide to the best sunscreen for your skin (which is for adult skin).