Oct 16, 2023
Best Baby Sunscreens to Protect Your Kids
by Rachel Sokol As I prep my daughters for camp, I’m faced with the same
by Rachel Sokol
As I prep my daughters for camp, I’m faced with the same question every summer: What type of sunscreen should they pack in their camp bags? There are so many kid and baby sunscreens on the market, and I’m obsessive about my girls remembering to reapply every few hours because the sun is intense. Their camp recommends sunscreen in a spray bottle because it's easier for the counselors to apply it on younger camper's bodies. However, I wonder if my kids are more apt to reapply and rub the lotion into their skin if it's from a "squeeze" bottle. And do they also need a sunscreen stick? What kind? Or a lip balm with an SPF rating?
Thankfully, a few skincare experts helped us narrow down the best baby sunscreens for kids, which they recommend to their patients, customers, and children.
"Sunscreen is so important for babies and children because their skin is more vulnerable and sensitive to the sun, and they are more easily burned," says Dr. Allison Holm, a Rochester, New York-based dermatologist. "In general, sunscreens and sunblocks are not approved until age six months, and the most helpful strategy is to keep babies under that age in the shade and in sun protective clothing."
She recommends Blue Lizard Sensitive or a mineral block from the brand's BABY Line for kiddos older than six months. "Mineral-based means it contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. For parents that want to go ‘chemical-free,’ it has very little chance of allergic reaction."
Another favorite of Dr. Holm's is SunBum Mineral sunscreen. "Mineral-based sunscreens are considered a ‘block,’ since they block all of the rays from the sun, not just UVA or UVB."
According to Dr. Holm, children spend a higher proportion of their time outside due to playing and sports, "and therefore get more ultraviolet exposure by the nature of just being outside. We know that people get 50-90% of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18 years."
SunBum carries lines of non-mineral sunscreens, too!
According to Dr. Holm, studies show that even one blistering sunburn during childhood is a risk factor for future skin cancer, "and the goal should be to prevent even one serious sunburn."
Let's start that prevention in our kids immediately. Kōkua Sun is a fantastic sunscreen for camp and the beach. It contains many antioxidant botanicals that neutralize free radicals caused by the sun's rays, so there's extra protection from sun damage. The products are also non-greasy and tear-free. Kōkua Sun sunscreens go on smooth, light, and clear–no icky, sticky white residue is left behind on the skin. Toss a bottle of this sustainable zinc sunscreen into your beach tote today.
This brand's broad-spectrum mineral sunscreens come in a variety of applications, from a classic lotion to an easy-to-apply stick. Formulated to be gentle yet effective enough for all ages, all Tubby Todd's sunscreens are water-resistant for up to 80 minutes!
Tubby Todd also sells a lip balm with an SPF you should encourage your kids to apply during the day, especially when they’re at camp if you’re not around to nag … er …. remind them. "Lip balm with SPF for kids is essential," says Karan Lal, DO, a Scottsdale, AZ-based dermatologist. "Our lips do burn, and it can be easy to miss as it can look like chapped lips."
Since we’ve mentioned the lips need to be protected, it's also important to acknowledge that the under eyes, cheekbones, jawline, and even beauty marks should be protected. Currently the only peel-and-stick UPF silicone sunblock on the market, Sun Patch is a silicone physical barrier between you and the harmful UV rays that cause photoaging. Using the highest-quality silicone, you apply it once, and your most sun-sensitive areas are protected all day. They’re available in under-eye patches, nose patches, and pink stars. The patches last all day and contain zinc. They’re fantastic for sensitive skin, reusable, hypoallergenic, and won't leave behind tan lines.
"I love that this is a pure mineral sunscreen that can be sprayed on kids," says Dr. Lal. "The biggest mistake parents make with sunscreen: they don't reapply! You have to make sure your kids are reapplying sunscreen."
Whether your kids prefer a spray sunscreen (some camp counselors request a spray for kids under five so they can spray it on the child fast, outdoors) or one from a squeezy bottle, "as long as the sunscreen is broad-spectrum and at least SPF30 that is sufficient." This zinc spray goes on white but blends easily into the skin, leaving it dewy and moisturized. The brand's one-of-a-kind valve technology allows for an even spray all over the body.
This mineral brand is excellent for older kids and was recently featured in the Strong Selfie tween subscription box. LĀ SOL Collective's sunscreens and lip balm are free of chemicals like oxybenzone and octinoxate, which have been linked to cancer. The brand's Clear Zinc Sunscreen with an SPF 30 has certified UVA/UVB protection, is water resistant for 80 minutes, and is fragrance-free. Dr. Lal states, "Chemical sunscreens are better than mineral sunscreen, but they are also associated with a higher risk of reactivity. So, I recommend mineral sunscreen until kids hit puberty and have more adult-like skin."
Regarding chemical sunscreens, Dr. Lal recommends La Roche Posay's Anthelios Melt in Milk SPF 60, which works for kids and their parents. However, this specific kids’ version is for the face and body. Gentle on sensitive skin, the children's bottle has an SPF of 50, is water resistant for up to 80 minutes, and blends smoothly on young skin. Fragrance-free and paraben-free, it leaves skin feeling super supple, doesn't leave behind a white residue, and sand brushes off easily from the skin when applied. Sun safe, this sunscreen offers advanced broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection and is chock-full of antioxidants. It also provides photoprotection from the sun's harsh rays and is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
"Mineral sunscreens contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide and sit on the skin's surface to deflect rays, providing instant protection against sun damage," explains Audrey Ford, a licensed esthetician in Charlotte, NC. "Thinkbaby Sunscreen Stick SPF 30+ has 20% zinc oxide protection." Ford exclusively uses mineral sunscreens, recommends this stick for kids, and avoids sunscreens with active ingredients with words ending in benzene. She says it's "a clear indicator in a non-mineral/chemical sunscreen. These sunscreens absorb into the skin and convert rays into heat." Additionally, says Ford, "They do not work on contact and tend to contain more damaging ingredients like preservatives, dyes, and fragrances. They are most unsafe for those with acne, rosacea, and pregnancy." This Thinkbaby stick glides on a kid's skin easily without leaving behind any icky and sticky residue and contains no odor.
Erbaviva Baby Sunscreen contains organic ingredients like jojoba oil and aloe that nourish the skin while protecting it from the sun. Ford is a big fan of this sunscreen for a child's skin because of its zinc and titanium dioxide content.
"Skin is the most sensitive during childhood, and as scary as it is to think about, bad sunburns on children can risk the development of skin cancer later in life." According to Ford, mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only sunscreens the FDA considers safe and effective, like this one from Erbaviva.
"Zinc oxide is the most effective, having stronger protection from UV-A rays, also known as ‘tanning’ rays," Ford said.
Some sunscreens are too thick, like the fake cake mask from the film "Mrs. Doubtfire." Which is why BLITHE's Airy gets a big thumbs-up. It's an ultra-lightweight mineral sunscreen that protects your skin against UVA and UVB rays and is very gentle on the skin. Additionally, it provides SPF 50 protection, is soothing for sensitive skin, and contains plant extracts if you dig all-natural ingredients.
When it comes to chemical sunscreens, Coppertone continues to be an industry leader. Mineral sunscreens tend to cost more than most chemical ones; however, this doesn't negate the fact that chemical sunscreens from big-name companies do get the job done when it comes to the sun. As Dr. Lal has pointed out, chemical sunscreens can cause photoallergic rashes in some people, but if your kids are okay with them, go for it. Coppertone does have mineral sunscreen, but if you want to go old school from an industry staple, this Kids SPF 50 offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, is water resistant, and stays on strong. Just don't forget to reapply.
If the planet and marine life are super important to you and your family, check out this kiddie sunscreen stick from the innovative brand Stream2Sea. The company promotes skincare products that are toxin-free and safe for freshwater fish, saltwater fish, and coral larvae. It's safe for both kids and fish. If your kids bask in the ocean as swimmers, surfers, or boat-dwellers, this stick is a must-carry in your family's beach or fishing bag. It has broad-spectrum sun protection with SPF 35+ and is pediatrician approved.
"Sunscreen safety has been such a hot topic in the last decade," says licensed esthetician and skin expert Emily Trampetti. "And with new science (and also a lot of bad science) swirling around us in headlines, it may seem overwhelming or anxiety-inducing to try and pick the right one, especially for your children!"
Trampetti has "no issue applying a high SPF chemical sunscreen lotion to my child. However, because my family has genetically very sensitive skin, I might opt for a more mineral, child-specific version to avoid irritation or potential sensitivity."
Trampetti adds, "Most of the diligent scientific community agrees that the best sunscreen you can apply or apply to your children is the one you have access to. But don't forget that sunscreen alone should never be relied upon as your sole sun protection mechanism. Layer sunscreen with UPF clothing, shade, sunglasses, hats, and other forms of protection to stay safe and protected."
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