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Whether you’re headed to the beach or taking a walk around the block, protection from the sun is important for everyone — and that includes your baby! But your little one has sensitive skin, so picking a sunscreen isn’t always as easy as it is for older children or adults.
Before we move forward, it’s important to note that the
Instead, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that infants are kept out of the sun entirely with umbrellas and protective clothing as they are more susceptible to the potential side effects of sunscreen, like rashes and chemical absorption, than adults.
In a word, yes. Aside from catching a nasty and painful sunburn, the harmful UVA and UVB rays emitted by the sun can lead to long term skin damage. According to the American Association of Dermatology, skin damage can start to show as early as 4 years old, and can eventually lead to premature aging (such as sagging and wrinkling) and, even worse, skin cancer.
So, what should you look for in a good baby sunscreen for children 6 months and older? And which brands are best for your baby’s sensitive skin?
While most sunscreen shoppers focus solely on the SPF rating (see below), SPF is only a measure of protection against sunburn which is generally caused by UVB rays.
You’ll want to find a sunscreen with an adequate level of SPF that’s also labeled as broad spectrum. The term “broad spectrum” means that a sunscreen product is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.
Chemical absorption is a big concern when we talk about sunscreen. But zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two mineral-based (not chemical-based) physical filters that are normally gentler on the skin because they don’t need additional chemicals to provide protection.
The American Academy of Pediatrics also suggests avoiding a chemical called oxybenzone, which may have hormonal properties.
SPF is short for sun protection factor. The SPF number represents the amount of exposure to sunlight you can have with that particular sunscreen (versus no sunscreen) without your skin getting burned. Sunscreen SPF can range from as low as 15 to as high as 100.
However, most medical experts agree that for babies and adults alike, you should use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30. While you can opt for higher SPF levels, experts agree that once you go beyond SPF 50, there’s no real enhanced benefit.
If you think you’ll be spending time in the water with your little one, you’ll want to prioritize water resistance. Buyer beware: No sunscreen is actually waterproof. And only sunscreens designed for 40 and 80 minutes of consistent water exposure are allowed by the FDA to claim that they are water-resistant.
Ease of use
Just like with sunscreen for older children or adults, baby sunscreen comes in a range of formulations, including sprays, sticks, and traditional creams. Most experts recommend the stick form since it’s the easiest to apply to wriggly children. And while sprays are quick, you need to be sure that the product is being applied properly and evenly.
We chose products that fit the above criteria. If you’re a regular sunscreen shopper you’ll know that sunscreen in any form comes in a handful of different sizes. Regardless of size, all of these picks come in at under $15.
Best baby sunscreen sticks
Hands down, a sunscreen stick is going to be easier to apply to your baby’s face (and way less messy) than any other kind of sunscreen. This mineral stick from Aveeno provides SPF 50 protection, is oil-free, and has 80 minutes of water and sweat resistance. Plus, Aveeno’s sunscreen stick also features the National Eczema Association’s (NEA) Seal of Acceptance.
This half-ounce size makes it TSA-friendly, but… small. Yes, babies are small, but if you’re looking for the more economical choice, a stick might not be the way to go.
This baby sunscreen stick from Neutrogena is a classic that’s proven to work and is widely available at drugstores and online. It’s a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers one of the highest SPFs (SPF 60), and 80-minute water resistance. This product, too, has the NEA’s Seal of Acceptance.
Again, this stick is a smaller size (0.47 ounces), making it perfect for travel and slipping into your diaper bag, but it’s also quick to run out. (Consider buying a couple at a time!)
Best baby sunscreen spray
Wrangling children can be hard enough on a good day, but slathering them in sunscreen can be an impossible task. A spray is a great way to make this a little bit easier.
Although this has the lowest SPF in our guide, it has a vegan-friendly formula that’s fragrance-free, with 80-minute water and sweat resistance. This broad-spectrum sunscreen is also safe for reefs, making it environmentally friendly. You might also like that this formula is full of skin-loving natural ingredients like sunflower oil, avocado, and jojoba oil.
However, you’ll want to be very thorough when applying this sunscreen as it’s easy to make mistakes when using sprays. And as with most eco-focused sunscreens, this is a more expensive option.
Best baby sunscreen for eczema
Like the Aveeno stick we mentioned earlier, this sunscreen is backed by the National Eczema Association and excellent for protecting babies with sensitive skin. It also seems to be highly backed by parents — reviews applaud this lotion’s consistency, saying it’s not oily or messy on their kiddos’ skin and that a little goes a long way.
A handful of other reviewers comment on liking the “not sunscreeny” scent and claim it soothed their little ones’ eczema and made their skin feel soft. Coming in at under $10 for a 3-ounce tube, this one gets points for affordability, too.
Best baby sunscreen creams
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get an effective mineral-based, broad-spectrum sunscreen that’s also rated safe for our oceans’ reefs — this sunscreen from Alba Botanica comes in at less than $10 for a 4-ounce bottle.
According to reviews, this formula is tear-free and lightweight so you and your children won’t be left feeling greasy. Plus it provides 80 minutes of water resistance and all the ingredients are guaranteed 100 percent vegetarian.
However, as the name suggests, this sunscreen does have a fruity scent. If you’re particularly sensitive to smells, you might not want to lather your little one in this.
If you’re the type of family that’s always outdoors, you’ll want a baby sunscreen that’s as economical as it is safe. While this option from Babyganics is pricey at first glance, it’s sold as a two-pack of 6-ounce bottles, making it a great bang-for-your-buck option.
This sunscreen is a traditional cream formula and is free of PABA, phthalates, parabens, fragrance, and nanoparticles. It’s also tear-free, offers 80-minute water resistance, and is full of natural ingredients like tomato, sunflower, cranberry, and raspberry seed oils.
Best eco-friendly baby sunscreen
Especially if you plan on swimming in an ocean or lake, you want a baby sunscreen that’s not going to hurt the wildlife that lives there. ThinkBaby’s Safe Sunscreen is a great choice for the ecologically minded set. While it’s one of the pricier options, it has consistently earned a top nomination from the Environmental Working Group, so you know it’s been vetted for potential environmental toxicity.
On top of offering SPF 50+ protection and 80-minute water resistance, this product is cruelty-free, gluten-free, and isn’t an aerosol. Users say it doesn’t have a telltale sunscreen smell or leave an oily residue.
Best scented baby sunscreen
Okay, this might seem like a weird award. But based on the rave reviews from parents on Amazon, a sunscreen that smells like cake frosting might be just the edge you need to apply your little one’s sunscreen a little easier. Plus, this organic sunscreen stick is a reef-friendly option that is mineral-based and chemical-free.
It’s worth noting, however, that while this is a top-rated baby sunscreen, the description fails to specify the water-resistance duration. And people of darker skin tones might dislike that this stick leaves a white cast.
There are a wide range of baby sunscreens that can work for you and your family depending on your budget, the features that matter most to you, and your preferred application method.
Whichever option you choose, just make sure that your baby’s sunscreen is meeting the minimum guidelines as recommended by medical experts: a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF. Be sure to reapply every 2 hours, and you’ll be set to have plenty of fun in the sun.