The 7 Best Sunscreens for Kids of 2021

Protect your little ones from the summer rays

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Our Top Picks
Packaged in a UV ray detecting color-changing bottle, this product is free of fragrances and parabens.
Made with zinc oxide and oat, it offers SPF 50 protection and is sweat and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
The formula contains zinc oxide, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and other all-natural ingredients and provides SPF 30 protection.
Kiss My Face features a pump spray that sprays on a nice layer, significantly cutting down on the time spent rubbing it in.
Many also remark about the clean, fresh papaya scent that doesn’t smell like typical sunscreens.
Notes of tangerine and vanilla add a fun fruity scent to this SPF 30 and water- and sweat-resistant sunscreen.
It’s perfect for getting sun protection onto little noses, cheeks and anywhere else you want a precise application.

Wherever your year-round adventures take you and your little ones, a packing essential is a solid sunscreen for kids, no matter the weather. To keep your kiddo safe and to give you peace of mind as they have fun in the sun, or under a cloudy sky, sunscreen makes all the difference in decreasing the risk of skin cancer and preventing premature skin aging. 

The option you pick should complement your family’s lifestyle, like water and sweat resistance if your kids enjoy the water and are active. Meanwhile, if your child has sensitive skin, they may be better suited for a hypoallergenic choice. 

Whichever sunscreen you choose, it should have an SPF of at least 15 to 30, ingredients that protect against both UVA and UVB rays, and be reapplied regularly based on the bottle’s instructions and best practices. As always, protective hats and sunglasses should be used in conjunction with sunscreen. 

Ahead, these are the best sunscreens for kids to prep them for the next trip or adventure. 

Best Overall: Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby SPF 30+ Broad Spectrum

blue-lizard-sunblock

For safe, effective sun protection parents feel good about, it’s hard to beat Blue Lizard. Hundreds of online reviewers say this is a beach-bag staple for outdoor family adventures. It contains no fragrances or parabens, so it’s good for sensitive skin. An added bonus: the bottle turns pink when the UV rays are strong enough that you need to open up the bottle and slather your children with it. The mineral-based formula provides SPF 30 protection and is water-resistant for about 40 minutes.

The cost is a bit higher than some other top brands, but online reviewers say it’s worth it. They say they love the natural formula and feel safe putting it on their children’s precious skin. They say it’s great for those with sensitive skin, such as those who suffer from eczema, and it provides powerful protection from the sun’s rays. The application of the product is on par with other similar sunblocks.

Best Budget: Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen

This sunscreen from Aveeno Baby will protect your little ones from sunburn without burning a hole in your wallet. Made with zinc oxide and oat, it offers SPF 50 protection and is sweat and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. The hypoallergenic formula contains no parabens, phthalates, or fragrance, and the manufacturers say it’s as mild on the skin as water, so it’s good for those with sensitive skin. 

While some note that it goes on white and requires some rubbing in, overall, they say it’s a great, non-greasy sunscreen at an affordable price.

Best Natural: Adorable Baby By Loving Naturals All Natural Sunscreen Spf 30 + for Toddler Children and Adults

Parents who want to keep things as pure as possible love this natural sunscreen from Adorable Baby by Loving Naturals. The formula contains zinc oxide, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, and other all-natural ingredients so you know what is in the sunblock and provides SPF 30 protection. It goes on clear (hooray for no telltale chalky white skin!) and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes.

Online reviewers give this sunscreen high marks. They like that it’s free of any fragrance and say it works well to prevent sunburns. Some note that it can be a bit greasy, but most say this is a good sunscreen they feel safe putting on their families and themselves.

Best Spray: Kiss My Face Sun Spray Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30 Sunblock

All that rubbing in of sunscreen can be exhausting when it comes to squirmy kids, which is why plenty of parents turn to sunscreen sprays. This one from Kiss My Face features a pump spray (not aerosol) that sprays on a nice layer and significantly cuts down on the time spent rubbing it in to provide adequate coverage.

The SPF 30 formula is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s fragrance-free and doesn’t contain any gluten, phthalates, or parabens. Customers say they love how easily this lotion is absorbed by the skin and that it provides excellent sun protection. They also note that it smells great and doesn’t leave the skin sticky or oily.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Thinkbaby Baby Sunscreen Natural Sunblock

Many parents want to protect their kids’ skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but they also don’t want to irritate it, which is what many sunscreens do. That’s why this sunscreen from Thinkbaby is a welcome solution for many. The formula is mineral-based, and offers SPF 50-plus protection and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Online reviewers like the thick formula. They say that while it goes on white, it rubs in easily and quickly fades to clear. Many also remark about the clean, fresh papaya scent that doesn’t smell like typical sunscreens.

Best Lotion: Badger SPF 30 Kids Sunscreen Cream with Zinc Oxide

If you prefer a lotion to a spray, this one from Badger offers solid sun protection. The zinc-oxide-based formula offers SPF 30 protection and is water- and sweat-resistant for up to 40 minutes. it also contains sunflower oil, beeswax, and vitamin E to help keep skin feeling soft. Notes of tangerine and vanilla add a fun fruity scent to this sunscreen as well.

Parents like the thick formula, and say you don’t have to use as much of it as you do with other thinner formulas. They say they feel good about the chemical-free formula and love the fresh-smelling scent. Some say it takes a considerable amount of rubbing to get it worked into the skin, but most say this is a good, safe, and affordable way to protect kids from the sun’s harmful rays.

Best Stick: Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Water Resistant Sunscreen Stick

Spray sunscreens and rub-on lotions are great for covering a lot of areas, but they can often get into little eyes. That’s why parents love this stick as a great sunscreen for kids from Neutrogena. It’s perfect for getting sun protection onto little noses, cheeks, and anywhere else you want a precise application. It provides SPF 70 protection, and you and can apply it even when kids are already wet. It’s hypoallergenic, oil-free and PABA-free, and the size is perfect for keeping on hand in a purse, pocket, or beach bag.

Parents say it’s quick and easy to use and great for kids and adults alike. They say it’s not greasy, goes on easy, and doesn’t require any rubbing. Many say it’s a summer staple.

Final Verdict

A pick that’s gentle on all skin types and protective enough for any kind of outing, Blue Lizard’s Sunscreen SPF 30 (view at Amazon) is free of fragrances and parabens, water-resistant, and dermatologist recommended.

If budget-friendliness is a priority, Aveeno Baby’s Zinc Oxide Mineral Sunscreen (view at Amazon) gets the job done with its gentle, non-greasy formula. 

What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Kids

SPF

Sun protection factor (SPF) can range depending on the sunscreen and the form it takes, and it’s recommended to go for a minimum SPF of 15 to 30. While it may seem like a higher SPF offers more protection, EWG cautions against choosing an SPF over 50+, with the FDA recommending an SPF cap. 

Having done independent testing, EWG found that “actual SPF values are significantly lower than what is on the label”. And if you’re using a high SPF, it shouldn’t be an incentive to spend as long as possible in the sun or an excuse to skip reapplying. 

Ingredients

According to EWG’s 15th Annual Guide to Sunscreens, the two sunscreen ingredients that are recognized as safe are: 

  • Titanium dioxide 
  • Zinc oxide  

While many chemical sunscreen ingredients absorb the sun’s rays, these two common ingredients work to reflect the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. 

Ingredients that haven’t yet been thoroughly studied and/or have data gaps are: 

  • Avobenzone 
  • Homosalate 
  • Octinoxate 
  • Octisalate 
  • Octocrylene 
  • Oxybenzone
  • Cinoxate 
  • Dioxybenzone 
  • Ensulizole 
  • Meradimate 
  • Padimate o 
  • Sulisobenzone

Though oxybenzone is a common active ingredient in sunscreen, the FDA raised some concerns in 2019 over its safety and efficacy due to its high absorption levels and potential as an allergen. 

The two ingredients that are deemed unsafe to use are: 

  • PABA 
  • Trolamine salicylate 

Broad Spectrum UVA and UVB Protection

Sunlight features two types of ultraviolet light, UVA and UVB. Unprotected exposure to UVA light can cause sunburns while exposure to UVB light leads to skin aging, with both having the potential to lead to skin cancer. 

Broad-spectrum sunscreen implies protection from both types of UV light, but the EWG questions their UVA coverage. Arguing that SPF values are more so tied to UVB rays and sunburn protection, the EWG believes the FDA’s guidelines for broad-spectrum sunscreens are too minimal. 

Despite these claims, ways to decrease one’s risk of UVA ray exposure include picking ingredients like avobenzone and zinc oxide, the “two best UVA filters in American sunscreens.” The EWG also lists titanium dioxide as a moderately effective ingredient for UVA ray protection. Other best practices include effectively applying sunscreen, minimizing time in the sun, and wearing UPF clothing and accessories. 

Chemical Sunscreen vs. Mineral Sunscreen

Chemical and mineral sunscreens are differentiated by how they interact with the sun. Chemical sunscreens work to absorb the sun’s rays while mineral (also known as physical) sunscreens work to block the sun’s rays. 

According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, mineral sunscreens are recommended for children and those with sensitive skin. Meanwhile, chemical sunscreens are best suited for older children and those without skin conditions. 

Water-Resistant

Water-resistant sunscreens aren’t just limited to beach or pool play. Your child will likely be sweating when outside in the heat, which is when a water-resistant formula offers better protection than a standard type. 

Keep in mind that there isn't a truly “waterproof” sunscreen, according to the FDA, only water-resistant. When spending time in and out of the water, your kiddos should reapply sunscreen more frequently, especially after exiting the water, and make sure to follow the product’s label-specific directions. 

Type

Lotion: Though lotions can be tedious, they offer easy absorption and peace of mind in ensuring no spot is missed. This form is the easiest to effectively apply. 

Spray: While spray sunscreen appears like the most convenient form, especially if the little ones are antsy to start playing outside, they’re not as thorough as other forms and tend to be applied ineffectively. Contrary to popular belief, sprays still need to be rubbed into the skin, especially as initial application may miss some areas. And no matter the type, the FDA recommends against applying spray sunscreen to one’s face due to the likelihood of breathing in fumes. 

Stick: Aside from being lightweight and space-friendly, stick sunscreens are an ideal option for kids who are learning to apply sunscreen independently. Its swipe-on form is perfectly sized for delicate areas like the face and the ears, so there’s no overdoing application. However, multiple layers need to be swiped on for the ultimate coverage. 

Gel: If the thought of running a lotion sunscreen over your head doesn’t seem appealing, gel-based sunscreens are a thinner alternative in providing coverage to your scalp. 

FAQs

What else should you do to protect kids from the sun?

It’s best to avoid sun exposure when UV rays are at their strongest, in between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aside from applying sunscreen, there are other preventative steps your kiddo can take when out in the sun, from clothing to accessories. 

  • Wear Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing, which feature a higher thread count to block the sun’s rays. Aim for a UPF of 15 or 50+ 
  • Sport a wide-brimmed hat that can provide coverage for your face and neck 
  • Wear sunglasses that block or filter UVA and UVB rays 
  • Don’t forget the lips! Lip balm with a minimum SPF of 15 should be a pocket essential 
  • Avoid certain medications, like some acne treatments, decongestants, and antibiotics, which may increase the likelihood of a sunburn 
  • If obtaining vitamin D is the goal, alternatives include supplements and vitamin D-rich foods 

Do those with deeply pigmented skin need sunscreen?

It’s a common misconception that those with darker skin and high melanin levels don’t need sunscreen, due to lack of awareness, and the higher prevalence of skin cancer in the fairer-skinned communities. 

In actuality, African Americans experience more melanoma deaths than any other ethnic group, according to the Cleveland Clinic. There are more difficulties in detecting skin cancer in those with dark skin while there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll receive a late-stage prognosis. 

The bottom line is that sunscreen should always be worn no matter one’s skin tone. There is no sun immunity in any community, and skin cancer is preventable. 

How is sunscreen for kids different than sunscreen for adults?

Some sunscreens have more gentle formulas than others, and despite the variety of kids’ brands, sunscreens for adults work well for kids, and vice versa. It boils down to your kiddo’s skin sensitivities, or lack thereof, a mineral or chemical form, the SPF, and your preferred type. 

How often should you apply sunscreen on a child?

The Cleveland Clinic cites certain guidelines that should be followed to ensure your child is receiving the maximum amount of sun protection. Aim to apply sunscreen in advance of outdoor activities, ranging from 20 or 30 minutes beforehand. 

Even if a sunscreen is labeled as “all-day,” it should be reapplied every two hours, or however frequently according to the label’s instructions. If your little one is going in and out the pool or the beach, water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied more frequently—especially after exiting the water. 

A rule of thumb is to apply an amount that would fill a shot glass all over the body. 

Why Trust Verywell Family? 

Julie Evans is a writer covering parenting, health, and wellness. She received her master's degree in nonfiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University. 

Additional reporting by Vincent Iannelli, MD and Tori Zhou. Dr. Iannelli is a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Tori Zhou is a writer and Associate Health Commerce Editor at Verywell. She enjoys staying up-to-date on wellness trends and products, with a focus on holistic health.  

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Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  8. What’s the best sunscreen to protect your skin — and avoid aging? Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic.