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Best Sunscreen for Kids

Sunscreen and Sun Safety

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Updated April 16, 2014

What is the best sunscreen for kids?

When choosing a sunscreen for their baby, toddler, or young child, parents typically make their choice on a sunscreen using only a few characteristics:
  • the highest SPF they can find, typically 50+ or 100+
  • a kids' brand (Aveeno Baby, Banana Boat Kids, California Baby, Coppertone Kids, Coppertone Waterbabies, Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby, etc.)
While it is fine to use these, they are really not that much different from those that are made for adults, so you don't really have to buy a separate sunscreen just for your kids.

Remember that a sunscreen isn't better just because it is more expensive. In fact, some of the highest rated sunscreens in a Consumer Reports test were the least expensive, including Up & Up Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 (Target) and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50. All of the most popular sunscreen brands tested by Consumer Reports tested either good or very good though.

Best Sunscreen

Things to look for that would indicate that you are buying the 'best sunscreen,' include that it:
  • provides broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection.
  • has an SPF of at least 15 to 30. You could go for a higher SPF, but most experts believe that these high SPF sunscreens don't provide that much extra protection. Some experts go as far as to say the SPF rating should be capped at SPF 30 or SPF 50, which provides protection against 97 to 98 percent of UVB rays. Using a high SPF sunscreen might provide more protection for those parents who don't use enough sunscreen and don't reapply it often enough though.
  • is water-resistant. Even if you aren't going swimming, if your child is outside, he will likely be sweating, so a water resistant might provide better protection than a regular sunscreen.
  • is hypoallergenic and fragrance free, especially if your child has sensitive skin.
  • is in a form that is easy to use on your child, whether that means it is a stick, gel, lotion, spray, or continuous spray, etc.

New sunscreen rules from the FDA will soon make it even easier to choose a sunscreen. Available next summer, the new rules will require testing for broad-spectrum sunscreens, new labels that make it easier to see all sunscreen ingredients, and restrictions on terms like waterproof and sweatproof. They may even cap SPF ratings at "SPF 50+."

Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens

Unfortunately, many sunscreens that say that they are broad-spectrum really aren't or don't block rays from the full UVA spectrum. To get good protection from UVA rays, look for sunscreens that list avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide as one of their ingredients, in addition to one or more sunscreen ingredients that provide UVB protection.

Sunscreen Ingredients

If your child gets a rash from his sunscreen, you might review the sunscreen ingredient list and choose a different one next time. Make sure to choose one that is PABA free. You might also look for one that gets its UVA protection from a sunblock, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, since they can be less irritating than avobenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient.

Be sure to apply it to just a small area of your child's skin if you think he might have a reaction to the new sunscreen too.

Of all of the sunscreen ingredients, the ones that may concern some parents include retinyl palmitate (vitamin A) and oxybenzone. Although many experts already think they are safe, if you are concerned, you can choose to avoid them by looking for sunscreens with different ingredients.

Kid-Friendly Sunscreen and Sunblock

The best sunscreens and sunblock that have all of the characteristics that you would look for to protect your kids from the sun include:
  • Aveeno Baby Sunblock lotion, SPF 55
  • Badger SPF 30 For Face & Body
  • Badger SPF 30 Unscented Natural Sunscreen
  • Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Continous Spray Sunblock, SPF 50
  • Banana Boat Baby Tear-Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50
  • Banana Boat Baby Faces Sunblock Stick, SPF 50
  • Banana Boat Kids Dri-Blok Sunblock Lotion, SPF 30
  • Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sunblock, SPF 50
  • Banana Boat UltraMist Kids Spray, SPF 50
  • Blue Lizard Australian Suncream, SPF 30
  • Bull Frog Kids FastBlast Sunblock Spray, SPF 36
  • California Baby Water Resistant, Hypo-Allergenic Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 50
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 70+
  • Coppertone WaterBabies Quick Cover Lotion Spray, SPF 50
  • Coppertone WaterBabies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
  • Coppertone WaterBabies Sunscreen Lotion Spray, SPF 50
  • Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces & Tender Places Sunblock Spray, SPF 50+
  • Neutrogena Kids Spray Waterguard Sunblock Mist, SPF 70+
  • Neutrogena Waterguard Kids Sunblock Lotion, SPF 70+
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunblock Lotion, SPF 60+
  • NO-AD Sunblock Lotion, SPF 45
  • Up & Up Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30(Target)
  • Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50
Parents should a avoid low SPF sunscreen or suntan lotion, which don't provide enough sun protection for kids.

Other Sunscreens

In addition to traditional sunscreen creams, lotions, and sprays, you can also get extra sun protection with:
  • lip balms with sunscreen
  • sun protection clothing, made with fabric that provides a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 15 to 50+

And be sure to avoid or limit sun exposure when the sun is at its strongest, from about 10 a.m. to 4p.m.



Sources:

Auerbach: Wilderness Medicine, 5th ed.

Consumer Reports Health. Sunscreen Ratings. July 2010. Accessed July 2010.

Ramirez R. Practical guide to sun protection. Surg Clin North Am - 01-FEB-2003; 83(1): 97-107.

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