In a nearly endless sea of SPF options, it’s hard to know which sunscreen for kids is truly the best, works well, and won’t get rubbed off on purpose because it feels weird (we’ve all heard that argument in a whiny tone too many times). Plus, it turns out certain mineral-based sunscreens are way better for the environment. Sunscreen can be harmful to our ocean’s disappearing coral reefs – and it’s cool to help out our coral reefs and teach our kids to do the same. Two of the most common ingredients that are harmful to reefs are oxybenzone and octinoxate, so to start, check labels for those culprits. We have to wonder, if those products are so bad for reefs, how can they be good for our LO?
We chatted with Doris Day, MD, board-certified dermatologist, and author of Beyond Beautiful. Day says, “most of the allergens and irritants people are worried about in sunscreens are from added ingredients to make the product smell or look better or from the preservative, not usually from the sunscreen ingredient itself.” Day points out, “the best sunscreen for kids uses physical protection from age six months and onward. When your child is ready for sunscreen, choose formulas that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which are often pasty and thick.”
We took Day’s advice, hunted through reviews, and turned to recommendations from parents to come up with a list of top sunscreens that are good for kids’ sensitive skin and the environment, and will also keep up with your little one’s endless play energy. Check out our favorites below. And do yourself a favor, get the kids to wear a rash guard. That’s half of the battle.
There’s no monkey business with this gentle formula, thanks to a relatively short list of mineral-based ingredients and a creamy formula kids won’t mind spreading all over themselves. Isn’t that really the mark of the best sunscreen for kids, anyway? Getting them to use it without screaming, tears, or a fight is half the battle. This company is proud of their plant-based formula as it relates to the environment, and openly supports the Hawaiian legislature’s approval of the bill that will ban the sales of all sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate starting 2021. The SPF 50 sunscreen provides UVA/UVB protection and contains natural zinc oxide, as well as coconut oil, shea butter, and coconut butter for a nice hydrating feeling. It’s created by parents, specifically formulated for the sensitive skin of kids, toddlers, and babies, and tested and reviewed by pediatricians and dermatologists. (There’s also an adult version, Sun Bum, in spay, lotion, and stick form).
Thinksport Kids Safe Sunscreen is made by a team of physicians and scientists, and as a result, it was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care Requirements and has had a top rating on EWG’s Skin Deep since 2010. The mineral-based formula is biodegradable and has no parabens, phthalates, or harmful chemicals like oxybenzone. It absorbs easily, has SPF 50, and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
One satisfied reviewer said, “This is my favorite of the mineral sunscreens I have tried. It has a pleasant scent, is effective at sun protection and very easy to blend in. It also doesn’t bother my kids who have eczema and very sensitive skin. I have tried several of the mineral sunscreens and most are either difficult to rub in due to being either too oily or too thick, don’t work very well or bother my kid’s eczema, but this one is perfect and the one I will be purchasing [in] the future.”
Age-neutral, eco-friendly packaging will make your tween feel about a thousand times more legit using this sunscreen than anything labeled “baby,” and this face-and-reef-safe formula will really impress you, too. It’s also safe to use on babies six months and older, so your whole family is covered. Love Sun Body is a physical sunscreen that exceeded FDA testing and meets even tougher European standards for UVA and UVB protection, so you may want to order a few extra bottles for your own delicate skin. The 100 percent natural, plant-based formula has no synthetic chemicals, GMO ingredients, parabens, or oxybenzone. It’s easy to rub in and matte, so you won’t end up looking super shiny before even stepping outside into the sun. Did we mention it’s hypoallergenic, water-resistant, and non-irritating to eyes? You officially have nothing left to complain about other than ice cream still not counting as a “health food.”
Spray-style sunscreens are appealing to on-the-go kids, athletes, and those who generally stand at the front lines of the battle against messes. Most of the big, popular brands use potentially-harmful aerosol systems, but this Babyganics version uses an air-powered, non-aerosol spray to make applying sunscreen quick and easy. It’s made with plant-derived and organic ingredients and phthalate-, paraben-, nano-particle-, and fragrance-free. It’s also water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and formulated with zinc oxide to create a physical shield.
One reviewer said, “we were big fans of the prior babyganics spray sunscreen so i was nervous to try this one. we love it. it sprays actual sunscreen versus the other kinds that seem to just spray air and you are never sure if you are actually being protected. this is easy to use and seems to be more effective than other spray sunscreens. no weird smell and my kids like to participate as well and try to use it themselves. will order again. than you babyganics, you knocked this outta the park.”
You’ll feel good about using this reef-safe formula that doesn’t have a drop of oxybenzone or octinoxate in its formula. Blue Lizard Baby Sunscreen is dermatologist-recommended and is free of parabens, chemicals, and fragrance. It’s mineral-based, which means it uses oodles of tiny reflective particles to put harmful rays in a time-out while your little one splashes in the water, runs around the playground, or participates in just about anything else that keeps them out of your hair for up to 40 minutes. And if you forget to be put on sunscreen before or after you head outside, the smart bottle will remind you — it turns pink in harmful UV light to remind you to apply some on. The SPF 30+ formula is pediatrician recommended and has broad spectrum protection from 97 percent of the sun’s rays.
There’s also a mineral version of the same baby product and yes, it does have Elmo on the bottle to make the kids more excited to use some.
Neutrogena’s Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Stick makes it easy to bring sunscreen with you wherever you go. This convenient stick is great to use on the face and ears and has a lightweight, non-greasy feel while providing broad spectrum SPF 60+ protection. It’s water-resistant (up to 80 minutes), hypoallergenic, oil- and PABA-free, and easily fits in your purse, carry-on bag, or any other place you’ll probably want to stow away some sunscreen to use in a pinch. The sunscreen is made with 100 percent naturally sourced ingredients and formulated for sensitive baby skin — it was even awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance for eczema & sensitive skin conditions. It’s also one of the best sunscreens for kids, thanks to its ease of use for tiny hands and a zinc-based formulation. If your tots can use a glue stick, they can hold this stick of sunscreen without any issue.
For active little bodies, Badger Baby Sunscreen provides gentle, biodegradable, and reef-friendly (no oxybenzone or octinoxate) sun protection. Your kid will also love the cute little badger illustration on the label. The sunscreen is hypoallergenic, pediatrician-tested, water-resistant, and safe to use for babies and kids. In addition to non-nano mineral zinc oxide to provide broad spectrum protection, the formula includes just six other organic and natural ingredients, including sunflower oil, beeswax, chamomile, and vitamin E — you’ll feel relieved to know there are no harsh chemicals being used on your or your family’s skin. The company is a certified B corporation, and even the tube the sunscreen comes in is BPA-free and made from recyclable plastic.
One parent and reviewer said, “I have a baby boy with very fair skin and this was the only sunscreen we used all summer. I did a lot of research while looking for a healthier alternative to store brand sunscreens that are filled with tons of chemicals. I wanted to give my baby the best and this is it.”
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard are parents to two young girls and co-founders of Hello Bello, which makes premium but affordable plant-based products that are good for your family and the earth. The mineral sunscreen provides SPF 50 broad spectrum protection using non-nano zinc oxide. The other ingredients include organic shea and cocoa butter, organic coconut oil, and organic green tea, avocado, and cucumber extracts (almost sounds delicious enough to eat!). It’s also dermatologist-tested, water-resistant, hypoallergenic, and safe for both adults and kids.
One reviewer said, “I found this new Hello Bello Sunscreen to be the leader of all Sunscreens on the market now that are MINERAL based and have the BEST of natural ingredients for our children and us as well. The kiddos will especially LOVE its orange scent, and also the fact it blends aimlessly into their skin very fast so they can get back to playing/swimming.”
Another very mom-trusted brand in skincare, Aveeno specializes in baby skincare products like this Continuous Protection sunscreen for sensitive skin. Sweat and water resistant (up to 80 minutes), this 100% naturally sourced mineral sunscreen is chock full of zinc oxide. Two 3 oz tubes with SPF 50 should keep bb safe for a while, or at least a few days splashing around in the new baby pool. It’s not greasy, so it’s easy to get on and easy to get off, something every mom knows is an A+ feature.
For more ways to keep your little ones entertained and healthy, check out our favorite picks for Kids Gear.