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Best sunscreen for kids: Lotion, spray or stick?

Obviously, the best sunscreen for kids is the one they'll let you slather on them without complaining! But should that be a lotion, spray or stick? We asked a dermatologist.

Best sunscreen for kids: Lotion, spray or stick?

Photo: iStock/skynesher

It's not news to any parent that sunscreen is essential for kids, starting at age six months. Because of their more delicate skin, children can sunburn easily even on a cloudy day, and according to Canadian Paediatric Society, bad sunburns and too much time spent in the sun without protection have been linked to a higher risk of skin cancer later in life.

But year after year, as the weather warms up, we stand at the drugstore aisle asking ourselves, "What's the best sunscreen for kids?" Besides factors like brand and price—not to mention the annual "mineral versus chemical" sunscreen decision—there's also the issue of formulation: lotion, spray or stick.

We asked dermatologist Dr. Julia Carroll for her thoughts on sunscreen lotions, sprays and sticks for kids, plus some other sunscreen questions we've been wondering.

Lotion, spray or stick: What's the best sunscreen for kids?

It's personal preference. I recommend a lotion as a base, a spray for quick touch-ups and a stick for the face.

baby bum spf 50 sunscreen Merchant

The stick gets all the contours and it's a great way to get kids engaged in the process without a mess. It also doesn't run with sweat, so it's great for around the eyes. I like Baby Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50.



Sticks can be game-changers because some kids don't like lotion on their faces.

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I also love the current TikTok trend of applying sunscreen [on] with a makeup brush. It helps ensure you’re getting full coverage, while the kid feels like they’re getting a face of makeup done! here.>

Ensure that you're using a good zinc oxide formula and clean makeup brushes for a thorough and hygienic application. You can also use colorful makeup sponges for younger children.

With sunscreen spray, some people spray it on their kids but don't rub it in. Does that work?

It does work for a bit of sun protection, but the ideal way to put it on is to spray it into your hands and then apply. This ensures proper coverage. Typically, kid-friendly spray formulas use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the main active ingredients. Expect a bit of a white cast.

How can kids learn to apply their own sunscreen?

I love getting kids involved and having them take ownership of their skin health. I recommend starting by getting them to apply a stick sunscreen to their face.

Make it a game! Challenge them to cover every inch of their face and then have them double-check in a mirror.

Is OK to use adult sunscreen on kids?

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There’s no major risk, but some sunscreens targeted toward kids are formulated without fragrance, which could cause irritation to sensitive skin. Kids and those with sensitive skin benefit from kids sunscreen formulas.

What’s the No. 1 sunscreen mistake parents make?

Not using enough sunscreen often enough. I recommend a golfball-size amount for the entire body, and it should be applied every two hours, or sooner or if you sweat or get wet.

Experts:

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This article was originally published on Jun 21, 2022

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