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.
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 for kids. Check out our favorites!
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 themselves. Isn’t that really the mark of the best sunscreen for kids, anyway? Getting them to use it without a fight is half the battle. This company is proud of their mineral-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. (Those two ingredients are harmful to the environment!)
LET ‘EM PRETEND IT’S “MAKEUP”
If she turns just about everything into a makeup brush, she’ll feel like a YouTube influencer keeping this reef-safe Brush On Block sunscreen for kids in her camp bag. There’s no greasy mess, sticky residue, or any of the other weird stuff kids tend to complain about with traditional sunscreen formulas, and it still offers kid-safe mineral protection with SPF 30. The future is so here.
HARMFUL RAYS WILL SIT IN TIME-OUT FOR UP TO 40 MINUTES
You’ll feel good about this reef-safe formula without a drop of oxybenzone or octinoxite in its formula. 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.
OH LOOK, THE WHOLE FAMILY FINALLY AGREES ON SOMETHING
Age-neutral packaging will make your tween feel about a thousand times more legit than anything labeled “baby,” and this face-and-reef-safe formula will really impress you, too. It’s 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 bottles for your own delicate skin. Did we mention it’s 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.”
THE ONLY SPRAY VERSION THAT MADE OUR LIST
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 a non-aerosol spray. It’s also water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and formulated with zinc oxide to create a physical shield. It’s also fragrance-free, and non-allergenic.
LITERALLY NO EXCUSE LEFT IN THE WORLD TO LEAVE HOME WITHOUT SPF
It’s water-resistant, 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. It’s one of the best sunscreens for kids, thanks to its ease of use for even tiny hands and a zinc-based formulation. If they can use a glue stick, they can hold this stick of sunscreen without any issue.
PRETTY SURE THAT’S FRENCH FOR “NOT CRISPY”
Since kids are at a higher risk of UV-induced sun damage and skin cancer than the rest of us, this reef-safe, broad-spectum SPF 60 sunscreen is a reliable go-to. It’s also paraben-free and fragrance-free, and boasts thousands of glowing reviews on Amazon.
YOU’RE ALREADY BUYING ORGANIC FRUIT
There’s a good chance you’ve already got some COOLA sunscreen in your own personal stash, so adding this organic mineral formula with SPF 50 to your diaper bag should feel pretty natural. It’s water-resistant, silky smooth, and farm-to-face sourced. How modern of you, chic hipster parent.
IT’S AN AMAZON CHOICE PRODUCT FOR A REASON (OR MANY)
This SPF 30 cream formula is oxybenzone-free and completely reef safe, partially because you love sea life, but mostly because you’re obsessed with your kids. It also boasts an EWG rating 1, is gluten-free, and biodegradable certified. Yas, ocean queen!
DOCS AGREE PROTECTIVE CLOTHING IS BEST FOR BABIES
If your baby is less than six months old, it may just be too aggressive to safely use much sunscreen at all, no matter how “safe” the formula. Day suggests outfitting babies in protective swimwear with high UPF/SPF ratings whenever possible, like this Coolibar number. It’s a great choice for squirmy kids and those prone to skin reactions, too. Plus, is there anything more eco-friendly than reusing the same sun protection? Hardly.
Our mom experts only recommend picks they really love. We may earn a commission on purchases made through links from our site, but if we love it, we know you’ll love it. And we Scary Mommies gotta stick together.