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Sunscreen may be synonymous with summertime, swimming pools, and sunshine, but it’s important to use throughout the year. As long as the sun’s ultraviolet rays reach our planet, the chance of skin damage is real.

Even if your kids are spending more time inside, sunscreen is vital to protecting their sensitive skin. Children have extra sensitive skin that’s more susceptible to damage from the sun’s rays and is more likely to be irritated by chemicals.

That’s why choosing the right sunscreen is key for keeping the whole family safe no matter if you’re spending summer at the pool, taking an autumn hike, or skiing in the winter.

The purpose of sunscreen is to prevent painful sunburns, as well as to prevent the long-term side effects of sun damage, such as premature aging and, most alarmingly, increased risk of skin cancer.

Most sun damage occurs during childhood, so it’s extra important to protect your little one’s skin from the sun — it will benefit them for a lifetime!

Sunscreen performs the same function whether it’s labeled for kids or adults. For instance, broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen for kids will provide the same level of protection as broad-spectrum SPF 30 sunscreen for adults. The active ingredients are often the same.

The biggest difference (besides the cute packaging) is that kids’ sunscreen is formulated with sensitive skin in mind, so it is less likely to have irritating ingredients or chemicals in it. Sunscreen designed for children may also come in more water-resistant or easy application options.

While sunscreen is very important, experts agree that additional measures are needed to protect your kiddo from sun damage. Wide-brimmed hats, sun-protective clothing, seeking shade, and avoiding sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are all great ways to prevent harm from the sun’s rays.

The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t recommend sunscreen for infants under 6 months of age. Infants should have their skin covered by hats and loose, long-sleeved clothing or be kept out of the sun whenever possible, such as under an umbrella or shady tree, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

For older babies and children, sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 is the minimum recommended by the AAP — although the AAD suggests using SPF 30 or higher. No additional benefit has been shown for SPFs higher than 50.

Mineral sunscreens, which contain active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, are the most highly recommended for children as they are less irritating for sensitive skin.

They also minimize the risk of harmful chemical exposure, as these minerals sit on top of the skin to block the sun’s rays, rather than absorbing into the skin.

While most sunscreen ingredients are either considered generally safe or are undergoing further research, you should try to avoid sunscreens with the ingredient oxybenzone. This chemical may have hormonal properties, says the AAP.

Water-resistant sunscreens are ideal for kids, who often prefer to spend their summer days in the pool, playing with water, or generally working up a sweat.

However, no sunscreen is truly waterproof and should be reapplied plentifully and often when outdoors. The AAD recommends reapplying sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside, and every two hours while you’re outside.

We pored over reviews, polled parents, and even tested products ourselves to bring you a list of top sunscreens for your child. We made sure each of these products follow the expert guidelines to provide:

  • broad-spectrum coverage
  • a minimum SPF of 30
  • are free of known harmful ingredients
  • are relatively easy to apply to wiggly children

There are a lot of decisions to make when it comes to parenting, so we’re here to make this one a little easier. Read on to find the best sunscreen for your kiddo.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $10
  • $$ = $10–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Best overall

Thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 50+

This mineral sunscreen lotion from Thinkbaby gets top marks all around, and it was a favorite out of the parents we surveyed. The reason we chose it received the “best for faces” superlative is that, according to kids, it “smells good” and rubs in much more easily than many other zinc oxide products — if you don’t want a bunch of little ghosts in your pics, this is a great choice.

It has an SPF of 50, highly rated ingredient safety, logs a maximum water resistance at 80 minutes, and it’s reef friendly. Many adults with sensitive skin also use this sunscreen for their faces, as it’s a light and absorbable formula with skin-friendly ingredients.

Best for sensitive skin

Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Zinc Oxide Sunscreen

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 50

Boasting the National Eczema Association (NEA) Seal of Acceptance, this sensitive skin sunscreen lotion is SPF 50 and uses zinc oxide to protect the skin. While it is a little harder to rub in (leaving a white cast) than some of our other choices, it is non-greasy and doesn’t have a “sunscreen smell,” as reported by customers.

Parents felt it left their little one’s skin softer and did not irritate those with sensitive skin or even eczema. To top it off, this is one of the least expensive and most highly rated products on our list, which is a win!

Best for eczema

CeraVe Baby Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen

  • Price: $$$
  • SPF: 45

CeraVe is a brand that comes highly recommended by dermatologists, and their mineral baby sunscreen gets top marks for being friendly to sensitive skin, including little ones with eczema.

An active ingredient in this sunscreen is hyaluronic acid, which has many benefits such as locking moisture into the skin’s cells. If your child has eczema, you know how important moisture is when it comes to easing uncomfortable feelings of dryness.

The sunscreen, which is on the pricier side, also includes three ceramides, a class of fatty acids called lipids. Ceramides, like hyaluronic acid, lock moisture into the cells, helping to repair skin that’s irritated by eczema.

These ingredients, combined with the sunscreen’s fragrance-free, oil-free, dye-free formula, make this an excellent choice for little ones with dry skin or those who experience eczema.

Best budget-friendly buy

Coppertone Pure & Simple Kids

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 50

Sometimes it just feels good to go with a household name brand like Coppertone — especially when the price is right. Their Pure & Simple formula is made with zinc oxide and natural botanicals (like tea leaf and sea kelp) and is free of fragrance and oxybenzone.

Providing SPF 50 broad-spectrum protection and water resistance for 80 minutes, this sunscreen is well loved by parents with a few exceptions: A handful of folks say the formula is too runny for them, and others say it takes a long time for it to rub in and not leave a white sheen.

Best for on the go

Babo Botanicals Baby Face Mineral Sunscreen Stick

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 50

Stick sunscreen is arguably the easiest way to get sunscreen onto squirmy little faces, and this mineral sunscreen stick from Babo Botanicals contains a super-gentle formula that’s great for sensitive facial skin. It contains mostly organic ingredients, has an SPF of 50, and is fragrance-free.

Many parents love the smooth application and not fussing with sticky lotion. While the price is a little high for its tiny size, this stick should last a while if you’re only using it on your little one’s face.

Best spray

Babo Botanics Sheer Zinc Sunscreen for Extra Sensitive Skin

  • Price: $$$
  • SPF: 30

Although it seems like the easiest way to coat a wiggly 2-year-old, spray-on sunscreen isn’t ideal for babies or younger children. The ingredients in sunscreen are good for the skin, but not great for inhaling, notes the AAD, and asking small children to hold their breath is sometimes an impossible task. It’s also harder to be sure you’ve applied the product evenly, so you may end up missing areas that will get burned.

However, especially for older kids, it’s hard to beat the less-mess application of spray sunscreen. Our top pick in this category is the Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Sunscreen. It goes on clear (a lot of zinc products leave a white tint behind), is gentle on sensitive skin, contains all-natural ingredients, and is environmentally friendly.

This eco-conscious choice comes with a considerably higher price tag than some other spray options, but it can be purchased in a more budget-friendly two-pack.

Best stick sunscreen

Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Stick

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 60

While stick sunscreen options may not be as economical due to their small size (most are around a half-ounce or less), they’re certainly convenient for tossing in your bag on the go, and their ease of use cannot be beaten. It’s hard to keep energetic kids still long enough to rub a bunch of lotion in, and a stick can make sunscreen application that much faster.

This SPF 60 broad-spectrum sunscreen stick from Neutrogena is mineral-based and free from harmful ingredients. It is also fragrance-free and has the NEA Seal of Acceptance, so it is unlikely to irritate your little person’s sensitive skin.

Best for travel

Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Stick

  • Price: $
  • SPF: 50

Another great choice for easy application, Aveeno’s baby sunscreen stick is highly ranked by parents for being sensitive-skin friendly. It’s also fragrance- and oil-free, and features the NEA Seal of Acceptance. The stick form makes it easy to throw in a bag, keep in a glove box, or take in a suitcase without worry it will leak.

This option is SPF 50 and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. There’s nothing not to like, besides the fact that you might have to stock up so you don’t run out of these pocket-sized sticks.

Best all-natural formula

Badger Baby Broad Spectrum Natural Mineral Sunscreen Cream

  • Price: $$
  • SPF: 30

While sporting a fairly hefty price tag (more than $15 for a 3-ounce tube), this sunscreen cream from Badger also provides a host of benefits that we hardly found in any other product when it comes to ingredient safety.

This cream has only five ingredients (including the sun-blocking zinc oxide and vitamin E, sunflower oil, and beeswax), all of which are organic, biodegradable, reef-friendly, and non-GMO. If natural ingredients are your top priority, this is a good choice.

Worth noting: This sunscreen has one of the lower SPFs on our list, coming in at SPF 30. It’s only water-resistant for up to 40 minutes, so you’ll want to make sure you reapply frequently if your kiddo is playing in the water.

Best scent

Babyganics SPF 50+ Sunscreen Lotion

  • Price: $$
  • SPF: 50

A more economical choice (it’s currently priced at around $18 for two 6-ounce tubes), this SPF 50 sunscreen uses the minerals octisalate, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide to block the sun’s rays. A seed oil blend that’s kind to your little one’s skin completes the formula. Its raspberry scent is subtle and, if you like scents, a nice addition to the usual smell of sunscreen.

This sunscreen is highly rated by parents for ease of application, not having a funky smell, price, and feel-good ingredients. Plus, a high water-resistance rating of up to 80 minutes means you won’t have to worry about reapplying quite as often as some other products.

Best fragrance-free formula

Kabana Organic Green Screen Original Sunscreen

  • Price: $$$
  • SPF: 32

Another great choice when it comes to natural ingredients (and being allergy-friendly!) is Kabana’s Green Screen Original. It features mostly organic ingredients, is reef-friendly and biodegradable, and claims to be gluten-free, vegan, corn-free, and fragrance-free. It contains only eight ingredients and uses non-nano zinc oxide to provide broad-spectrum coverage with an SPF of 32.

What is the best sunscreen for kids?

In short, the best sunscreen is the one that you’ll use. If you travel or your kids play sports, this might mean placing a sunscreen stick in the glove compartment of the car and one in your purse. If you will not use sunscreens with chemicals or fragrances, be sure to keep your favorite mineral sunscreen in your bag.

You should pick an option that’s best applicable to your lifestyle.

Who should use sunscreen?

The AAD recommends that all children wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. There is a myth that claims children with darker skin do not need to wear sunscreen. While darker skin has more sun-protective melanin, it can get painfully sunburned, too. Keep babies younger than 6 months old out of the direct sun.

How much sunscreen do I need to apply?

According to the AAD, most people do not apply as much sunscreen as they should.

You should apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that clothing does not cover. Most adults need about 1 ounce — or enough to fill a shot glass — to fully cover their bodies. Kids need about half that amount.

Don’t forget those easy-to-forget areas like the lips and tops of ears.

Thankfully, there are a lot of proven sunscreen options so your kids can protect their skin while enjoying healthy outdoor activity — it’s a win-win!

In addition to seeking shade and wearing protective hats and clothing, if you follow the expert recommendations for applying sunscreen with broad-spectrum coverage (at least SPF 30), your kids should be good to go on their next outdoor adventure.