Kids health

10 top sunscreens for kids

We spoke to the experts to get advice on choosing the best sunscreen to ensure your kid is protected from harmful UVB and UVA rays.

By Andrea Karr

10 top sunscreens for kids

Photo: Daniel Harrison

No parent enjoys spending precious time in the summer rubbing sunscreen onto a screaming toddler or squirming kid, but sunscreen is an important part of preventing skin cancer down the road. So how do you choose the right formula? Here are some things to keep in mind.

Healthiest sunscreens for kids

Coppertone WaterBabies Whipped, SPF 50

With its fun new format that sprays out of a canister like shaving cream, Coppertone WaterBabies Whipped makes application fun for kids and easy for parents.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Thinkbaby Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50+

This mineral-based sunscreen stick from Thinkbaby offers easy, mess-free touch-ups on the go.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Hawaiian Tropic Duo Defence Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50+

Hawaiian Tropic’s new Duo Defence contains free-radical-fighting green tea extract so it offers protection from both sun and pollution at the same time.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Garnier Ombrelle Kids Ultra Gentle Lotion Spray, SPF 50+

If you love the ease of a sunscreen spray but worry about giving your kids full coverage, Garnier Ombrelle now carries a mist that goes on white so you’ll never miss a spot. It’s also alcohol-free and great for sensitive skin.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Attitude 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance Free, SPF 30

If your little one has extra sensitive skin or eczema, try Canadian brand Attitude’s “little ones” mineral sunscreen. It contains colloidal oatmeal to soothe irritation and bears the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance.


10 top sunscreens for kids

La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Dry Touch, SPF 60

La Roche-Posay has a solution for older kids, tweens and teens who are starting to experience oily skin or breakouts. Their new Dry Touch sunscreen absorbs quickly, mattifies to reduce shine and keeps skin feeling clean.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Aveeno Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50

Aveeno Baby uses naturally sourced zinc oxide to provide broad-spectrum protection. It also contains soothing oats, is hypoallergenic and won’t sting your baby’s eyes.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Coola Baby, SPF 50

Coola Baby is an unscented organic mineral sunscreen that not only protects against harmful rays, pollutants and dust, but also moisturizes with shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil and coconut oil.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Vichy Idéal Soleil Sport with wet skin technology, SPF 60

Good for sporty moms and kids, Vichy Idéal Soleil Sport resists water and sweat for 80 minutes so you’ll both have high protection whether you’re swimming, running, cycling or chasing a ball around a field.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Kiss My Face Organics Kids Defense Mineral Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 30

The new organic line from Kiss My Face includes this kids’ sunscreen, made from 87 percent organic ingredients. The lotion also nourishes skin with pomegranate extract.


10 top sunscreens for kids

Go for an SPF of 30 to 50 SPF 30 will block approximately 97 percent of UVB rays. Any additional SPF will only block a couple percent more. So even if you apply an SPF 60 to all of your child’s exposed skin, that doesn’t mean they can stay out in the sun all day without reapplying.

Look for the words “broad spectrum” “Broad spectrum” means a sunscreen sufficiently blocks out both UVA and UVB rays (whereas SPF level only relates to UVB protection). Since both types of rays can cause skin damage and skin cancer, purchasing a broad spectrum sunscreen is non-negotiable.

Read the label Sunscreens use either chemical active ingredients or minerals (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide), and both protect against UV rays. Some chemical ingredients have gotten a bad rap for causing harm when used in extremely high doses in studies on rats. Nonetheless, Shudeshna Nag, a paediatrician specializing in paediatric dermatology at Toronto’s Kindercare Pediatrics, tells families that the bigger, proven concern is the harmful effect of the sun. “What we should be worried about, of course, are the sun’s rays, which are a known carcinogen.”

But if you prefer to err on the side of caution, there are plenty of mineral sunscreens on the market. Nag says some kids will experience skin reactions from certain formulas, whether mineral or chemical, and might need to try different brands to find one that agrees with their skin. Fragrance can be an irritant, so parents of kids with sensitive skin can choose fragrance-free formulas.

Consider the best format Spray sunscreens are convenient to apply, but aren't ideal for every child. “Young children have a tendency to inhale sprays, which could irritate their lungs,” says Nag, who adds that we don’t yet know the effects of chronically inhaling these substances. Inhalation is less of a concern for older kids (because you can tell them to hold their breath when applying), but adequate coverage can be an issue because it’s easy to miss spots, so it’s a good idea to apply an extra coating of spray if you use it.

Apply lots and reapply The promised SPF on the bottle is only accurate if you apply a liberal amount to all of your child’s exposed skin. You’ll go through a bottle, can or stick of sunscreen quite quickly if you’re using it properly. You also need to reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating a lot. After that, the sunscreen is no longer guaranteed to protect to the SPF level listed on its label.

Finally, don’t rely entirely on sunscreen. Whenever possible, try to keep kids in the shade, out of the sun when it's hottest (typically mid-day), and have them wear sunglasses, hats and as much clothing as possible.

Keep these factors in mind when you're choosing your kid's sun protection and you'll be on your way to a safer summer. And if you need a little help with your selection, here are some picks that meet the criteria for healthy sunscreens.

Read more: 13 worst-scoring sunscreens for kids, as rated by the EWG How to apply sunscreen The biggest sunscreen myths debunked