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Protect delicate skin with the 10 best sunscreens for kids, babies and toddlers

When it comes to protecting your child’s delicate skin from the sun’s UV rays, the right sunscreen can make all the difference. Here's our pick of the best sunscreen for kids - from sprays for fidgety children to lightweight, hypoallergenic creams for sensitive skins.

By Tammy Jacks | Last updated May 19, 2022

From March to October, it’s more important than ever to shield your child’s skin from the harsh sun. Nobody enjoys the painful experience of sunburn (which can happen in cloudy weather too), but prolonged sun exposure is especially harmful to babies and young children as they’re at risk of additional complications like heat stroke, dehydration and skin cancer later on.

While experts recommend that babies younger than six months avoid direct sunlight altogether, the best way to protect your older baby or young child’s skin from the sun’s UV rays is by using a good quality sunscreen and dressing your little one in cool, comfortable, protective clothing and hats.

For children, the British Skin Foundation recommends using sunscreen with a minimum of an SPF 50 with broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. It’s important to apply around five teaspoons of sun cream or lotion at least 15 to 20 minutes before going out, and to remember to reapply every two hours, especially after swimming and sweating.

So, with all the sunscreens on the market, which is the best option for your little one? Finding the right formula can be tricky as every child has a different skin type and may react differently to specific ingredients in sunscreens. In other words, what works for one child may not work for another. However, parents on our Mumsnet forum still like to discuss which sunscreens are best for sensitive skins and like to share their views on everything from the texture of the cream or lotion to the scent, ease-of-use, and overall value for money.

The good news is that we’ve done the hard work for you and conducted thorough research to find the best sunscreens for babies and children. We’ve carefully evaluated the most often recommended sunscreens as reviewed by real parents, consumers and dermatologists.

How we chose our sunscreens

Products tried and tested by Mumsnet users

We always ask our trusted Mumsnet users, of which there are millions of each month. That’s a lot of real, impartial and valuable advice! For that reason, we had an in-depth look on the Mumsnet forum to find out which sunscreens parents liked, used regularly, and recommended. 

We took special note of things like the sunscreen’s SPF factor and UVA rating (because safety and efficacy come first), the ingredients, scent, consistency/texture and overall value for money. We also looked at whether the sunscreen was suitable for the whole family – which add value to the overall purchase of the product.

Consumer feedback

In addition to the Mumsnet forum, we also conduct thorough research online and read countless online reviews from customers who have used the products themselves and offered both positive and negative feedback.

Expert recommendations

We always ensure our information is relevant and represents the latest recommendations from experts in the field, including those from the British Skin Foundation, the FDA and NHS. With this in mind, we scrutinized each sunscreen on our final list to ensure they ticked all the boxes and were in line with the latest sun safety tips and advice.

Celebrated best products

Finally, we cross-referenced all of the above information to find the best sunscreens on the market, particularly those that have been recognised and approved by doctors or dermatologists for children with dry, sensitive or eczema-prone skin. We think there’s something here for everyone at various price points.

Here’s our guide to the best sunscreen for kids.

What are the best sunscreens for babies and children?

1. Best overall sunscreen: La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics Invisible Spray SPF 50+

La Roche

Price: £21 | Buy now from Amazon

“La Roche-Posay 50+ is great, pricey but great for irritated skin. Between an ultra-sensitive me, a picky kid, and another pale kid, I can trust this.” Piemam

High-end French brand, La Roche-Posay is known for its silky-smooth skincare formulations and the company’s premium sunscreen is no different. We like this lightweight spray formulation because it’s hydrating, glides on the skin and sinks in fast (so no impatient tantrums while you’re applying it on your child), plus it’s non-greasy and won’t leave white marks on clothes or your child’s skin.

Although it’s pricier than other sunscreens on the market, the gentle formula stands out as it contains soothing thermal spring water, which is suitable for even the most sensitive skins, and can be used on the face. The "Intellimer" technology in the product allows for full, even coverage for two hours before having to reapply. You may miss the traditional tropical smell as this one is non-perfumed, but it’s best for sensitive skins and Mumsnetters agree that this is one sunscreen you can trust.

Pros

  • Offers very high protection (SPF 50+)
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to apply spray
  • Offers protection against UVA and UVB rays
  • Sand and water-resistant
  • Gentle on all skin types

Cons

  • Pricey
  • You may need two bottles for a 10-day holiday

Key specs

UVA rating: Four stars

2. Best budget sunscreen: Calypso Kids Sun Lotion SPF50

Calypso sunscreen

Price: £5 | Buy now from Amazon

“DS has sensitive skin and routinely gets heat rashes that require antihistamines. We use Calypso SPF 50 once a day and he's never had a problem with it. It was recommended to us and that's all we buy now.” Wouldlovetobeinthesun

The Calypso Kids Sun Lotion offers robust, broad spectrum sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays without bothering sensitive skin. It also doubles up as a moisturiser thanks to the gentle hydrating ingredients in the formula. Made according to strict Australian sun care standards with photostable ingredients (meaning they don’t break down as easily when exposed to the sun), you can rest assured that this sunscreen will protect your baby or toddler’s delicate skin throughout the day.

At under £10, it’s a great budget-friendly option that’s a handy size to take on pram walks or to picnics, playground visits and trips to the beach or pool. 

Pros

  • Good value for money
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Non-greasy
  • Water-resistant
  • Doesn’t leave a yellow stain 

Cons

  • Has a strong scent which isn’t suitable for everyone
  • Doesn’t show UV star rating

Key specs

UVA rating: Four stars

3. Best sunscreen for eczema-prone skin: Childs Farm 50+ SPF Sun Cream

Child's farm

Price: £9 | Buy now from Amazon

“We use the Childs Farm Sun Cream on DS” KingdomScrolls

“Childs Farm here too, DD has mild eczema and doesn’t irritate her.” riotlady

“Another vote for Childs Farm. My son has bad eczema and is prone to heat rash and reacts badly to other sun creams.” Lakeswimming

Having been awarded plenty of accolades and rave reviews from Mumsnetters, Child’s Farm 50+ SPF Sun Cream certainly deserves a spot on our list. Tailored to sensitive skins, it carries both a paediatrician and dermatologist stamp of approval for those who may be prone to dry skin and/or eczema and contains a variety of naturally derived ingredients with none of the nasties such as artificial colours, parabens or mineral oils. In fact, according to consumer user trials involving 100 testers, 98% agreed that this sun cream didn’t cause irritation to their children’s skin.

Plus, it also does its job of offering very high protection against both UVA and UVB rays while keeping the skin moisturized. However, the lotion may be a little thick or greasy for some as it takes a little time to absorb into the skin and it only offers a three-star UVA rating, which means you may need to reapply more often.

Pros

  • Tried and tested for eczema-prone skin
  • Suitable for babies and toddlers from six months
  • Non-perfumed
  • Water-resistant
  • Long-lasting

Cons

  • Some say it’s greasy
  • May stain clothing
  • Only offers three-star UVA rating

Key specs

UVA rating: Three stars

4. Best long-lasting sunscreen: Soltan Kids Once 8hr Protect & Play Lotion

Soltan

Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon

“We only use Boots Soltan Kids 8hr lotion. It’s not especially gentle but only putting on one dose a day means their skin can breathe. We are all super pale too.” KatyN

“I have reacted badly to sun cream in the past. The only one I use myself is Boots Soltan. I use the Soltan Kids Once 8hr lotion on my kids and they've been okay with it.” MrMeeseekslookatme

If you’re looking for a fuss-free sunscreen that doesn’t need to be reapplied as often as some other lower SPF brands and that will continue to protect your child’s skin from sunburn, then the Soltan Kids Once 8hr Protect & Play Lotion is a good choice.

This lotion is particularly effective for children with pale skin as it has a five-star UVA rating and offers broad spectrum protection. It’s also formulated with additional antioxidants, designed to guard against both short term and long-term skin damage. We also like that it’s water-resistant for up to one hour in the water (you’ll need to reapply if your child swims a lot) and is dermatologically tested to ensure it won’t irritate your little one’s skin.

If you’re looking for a non-sticky, easy-to-apply sunscreen for your child’s face, the Soltan Kids Sunstick SPF 50+ is a great additional option.

Pros

  • Long-lasting
  • Easy to apply
  • Non-greasy
  • Offers maximum five-star UVA protection
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Quite a small tube
  • May take a little while to absorb

Key specs

UVA rating: Five stars

5. Best all-natural sunscreen: Green People Organic Children Scent Free Sun Cream SPF30

Green people

Price: £14 | Buy now from Amazon

“We use Green People. No rashes with it so far.” whatwouldscullydo

“At the moment we are using Green People Organic Sun Cream which is also highly recommended. It's been brilliant, no irritation at all on DD or on DH who normally really struggles with sun cream.” SleepingTurtle

This organic, scent free sun cream from Green People is a gentler, chemical-free option for dry, sensitive or eczema-prone skin. It’s formulated with soothing aloe vera, green tea, avocado oil and olive oil to offer plenty of hydration and moisturising benefits along with protection from UVA and UVB rays.

The richer mineral based formula works by reflecting UV rays away from your child’s body, as opposed to absorbing it. It’s also naturally free from parabens, colourants, petrochemicals, harsh foaming agents and phthalates. It's a very thick cream, so worth bearing in mind if you prefer applying something a touch lighter to your child’s skin.

Pros

  • Ideal for sensitive skin
  • Rich in antioxidants to protect skin
  • Easy to apply
  • Soothing and non-greasy
  • Won’t clog pores

Cons

  • Leaves a slight white residue
  • Scent and colour may change due to its organic nature
  • You need to apply a decent amount of cream for it to be effective

Key specs

UVA rating: Not specified

6. Best paraben-free sunscreen: Jason Natural Cosmetics SPF45 Kids Sunblock

Jason Sunscreen

Price: £11 | Buy now from Amazon

“I like Jason Sun Block. Smells good and my pale eczema-prone child doesn’t seem to react.” Lou573

Not only is this natural sunscreen paraben free, it also doesn’t contain any other potential skin irritants such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), petrolatum, artificial colours, or phthalates. This ensures the gentle formula is hypoallergenic and suitable for little ones with eczema. And because it’s sweat and water resistant for up to 80 minutes, this formula will allow your child more time in the sun before having to reapply.

Although the creamy liquid initially appears to be quite thick, it’s actually silky smooth like a moisturiser and absorbs quickly, plus it has a light fruity scent and contains a calming blend of chamomile and calendula extracts to nourish and hydrate the skin.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Free from nasties like parabens
  • Hypoallergenic formula
  • Tear-free
  • Water -resistant

Cons

  • May need to apply more frequently on lighter skin tones
  • Some say it’s a little greasy
  • Can sting the eyes if applied on the forehead

Key specs

UVA rating: Not specified

7. Best sunscreen for babies: Mustela Very High Protection Sun Lotion SPF50+

Mustela

Price: £19 | Buy now from Amazon

“Mustela Very High Protection SPF 50+ is the only one I’ve found that doesn’t give my child a rash.” Namechangedyetagainandagain

While this sun lotion might carry a slightly heftier price tag, Mustela is renowned for its high-quality skincare products for children and it’s Very High Protection Sun Lotion SPF50+ is a firm favourite amongst parents.

A lightweight yet moisturising alternative to the traditionally thick, sun-creamy feel, this winning formula has also been dermatologically tested (so it won’t irritate your little one’s skin) and holds an ingredient safety policy certification. Not only does it offer all round protection against UVA and UVB rays, it’s water resistant, spreads easily and isn’t sticky. The only downside? The lotion might stain clothing but comes off easily after a single wash. If you’re specifically looking for a face sunscreen, Mustela also has Very High Protection Face Sun Lotion SPF 50+, plus a soothing After Sun Spray to keep your child’s skin soft, smooth and supple.

Pros

  • Offers very high sun protection
  • Great quality
  • Ideal for the whole family, including babies from six months
  • Easy application
  • Has moisturising benefits
  • Hypoallergenic

Cons

  • Quite pricey
  • May stain clothing

Key specs

UVA rating: Not specified

8. Best sunscreen for sun sensitive skin: Piz Buin Allergy Sun Sensitive Skin Lotion SPF50+

Piz Buin

Price: £8 | Buy now from Amazon

“We use Piz Buin Allergy Sun Sensitive Skin Lotion on my daughter, who has sensitive skin and gets eczema and rashes from some sun creams. It works well for her, and she likes the feel of it, (the spray version rubs in easily).” DIYandEatCake

If your little one’s skin instantly reacts badly to the sun, a fab option from Piz Buin is their Allergy Sun Sensitive Skin Lotion, specifically designed for sun sensitive skin that can become prickly or blotchy when exposed to UV rays. It's loaded with all the necessary UVA/UVB protection, plus a healthy dose of 'calmanelle', which the brand describes as a unique anti-irritant shield complex.

The formula has a pleasant smell, absorbs well and isn’t oily, however it does have a thicker consistency than some of the other lighter lotions on our list. We think it’s good value for money as it’s a bigger tube and suitable for the whole family.

Pros

  • Smells great
  • Good value for money  
  • Absorbs quickly
  • Non-greasy
  • Water-resistant

Cons

  • Thicker consistency than other sunscreens
  • May leave a white residue on the skin

Key specs

UVA rating: Four stars

9. Best waterproof sunscreen: Banana Boat Kids Sport Sunscreen Lotion Spray

Banana boat sunscreen

Price: £13 | Buy now from Amazon

“Banana Boat Lotion Spray is my other 'go to'. SPF50 and so easy to use. Spray into the hand to rub on the face but elsewhere spray directly. Again, no reaction as it's not thick and oily and pore blocking.” alabasterangel

If you’re not a fan of thick and oily, or pore-blocking sun creams, then Banana Boat Kids Sport sunscreen lotion is the one for you. It's quick to apply, so it's perfect for kids who find it impossible to sit still. It's also great for fairer-skinned children as it's available in a no-nonsense factor 50+.

This broad-spectrum lotion is tear and sting free, as well as sweat and water resistant (for up to 80 minutes), so it’s ideal for sweaty sports matches, swim sessions or outdoor games.

Pros

  • Offers broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays
  • Long lasting
  • Sweat and water resistant

Cons

  • Leaves a white residue
  • Can be tricky to rub in fully

Key specs

UVA rating: Not specified

10. Best non-greasy sunscreen: Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Spray SPF50

Garnier Dry Mist

Price: £11 | Buy now from Boots 

“Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Spray is amazing. Sinks right in, no greasiness.” MrsMcnulty20

While it’s not specifically designed for children, Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist is a good family choice. The instantly absorbed mist contains extra moisturizing ingredients like shea butter and is ideal for older children who hate the feeling of having anything on their skin. Thanks to its lack of greasiness and stickiness, it feels more like a light moisturiser than a thick sun cream. We like that it sprays from any angle, helping to protect all parts of the body and spreads easily – a little certainly goes a long way with this formula.

Although there’s no specific UVA rating on the bottle, manufacturers claim that this sunscreen offers advanced UVA and UVB protection and conforms 100% to European recommendations. Another bonus is that Garnier’s suncare research is recognised by the British Skin Foundation, so you can rest assured that the company’s suncare products do their job of protecting the skin.

Pros

  • Suitable for the whole family
  • Absorbs instantly
  • Has moisturizing benefits
  • Non-greasy
  • Offers advanced UVA and UVB protection
  • Sprays from all angles
  • Water -resistant
  • Alcohol free

Cons

  • Pricey considering the spray runs out faster than a cream
  • Cold sensation as you spray
  • Not suitable for the face

UVA rating: Three stars

What is the best sunscreen to use for children?

Based on our intensive research as well as reading countless reviews from parents who have personally used the product, the best overall sunscreen for children is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dermo-Pediatrics Invisible Spray SPF50+.  This brand comes up more than any other in terms of being suitable for babies and children, plus it’s backed by dermatologists and is well tolerated by all skin types, particularly children with sensitive or eczema-prone skin.  It offers very high protection and comes with a UVA star rating of four.

Designed to hydrate as it protects, this light spreadable spray lotion absorbs quickly and doesn’t stain clothing – an additional bonus when you’re dealing with wriggly children who won’t stand still.

What SPF should you use on babies/toddlers and children?

According to the NHS, babies and toddlers need extra protection when in the sun, and babies under six months should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible. This is because their skin is much more sensitive than adult skin and repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer later in life.

In the warmest months from March to October, The NHS advises the following: 

  • Children should wear at least an SPF 30 sunscreen. (The British Skin foundation suggests SPF 50). 
  • Children should be covered with suitable clothing
  • Parents should ensure children have sunscreen on areas not protected by clothing such as the face, ears, feet and the backs of hands
  • Children should spend plenty of time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm

FDA officials have mirrored this advice in their recently updated sunscreen guidelines where they highlight the importance of using an SPF of at least 30 for children, as well as wearing clothing that protects the arms, mid-section and legs from UV rays, plus a hat that provides adequate shade while covering the whole head. 

Which mode of sunscreen is most effective?

Experts at the British Skin Foundation reiterate that SPF (which stands for sun protection factor) only refers to the sunscreen’s potential to block UVB rays and not UVA. Therefore, it’s important to look for a sunscreen that has a good UVA rating too (more on this below).   

In a nutshell, SPF numbers, which range from two to 50, “Tell you the time the skin will take to redden with the sunscreen versus the amount of time it will take to redden without the sunscreen.” So, with an SPF 15 for instance, it would take your skin 15 times longer to go red as compared to having no sunscreen on. They also go on to explain that an SPF of 30 allows about 3% of UVB to penetrate the skin and SPF 50 about 2%.

Therefore, with regards to children’s sensitive skins, it makes sense that the higher the SPF you use, the better. Also remember to reapply every two hours (and every 90 minutes) if your child is swimming and using a towel to dry off.

In addition to the SPF, there are other factors to consider when looking for a good sunscreen you can use and rely on consistently:

Application: Is the sunscreen easy to apply? For instance, if you’re using a spray bottle, does it spray from all angles and get to those hard-to-reach places?  Is it too thick to sink into the skin and/or too difficult to apply?

Long-wearing: Does the formula get absorbed fast and is it water and sweat resistant? Or will it run into your child’s eyes and sting if applied to the forehead?

Hypoallergenic: Many children are sensitive to sunscreens. If your child is prone to eczema or skin rashes, it’s important to look for a sunscreen that’s been specifically formulated for sensitive skins.

Broad spectrum: For babies and children, it’s critical to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

Value for money: When considering your budget, of course you’ll want to find a sunscreen that ticks all your boxes and comes in a reasonably good-sized tube or bottle. Mumsnetters love Calypso Kids Sun Lotion SPF50+ for this very reason. Not only is it under £10 for 150ml, but the formula is also hypoallergenic, plus it’s non-greasy and water-resistant.

What does a UV rating on sunscreen mean?

The UV star rating on a sunscreen product is a measure of how much UVA is blocked. This is also referred to as a PA rating on some sunscreens, which stands for “Protection Grade of UVA”.

The scale goes from 0 - 5, with 3 a three-star rating meaning that the product blocks around 60% of the sun’s UVA rays, with five stars offering the most protection. The EU requirements for UVA protection is three (minimum), but the higher the star rating, the better.

What is the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

Experts at Sun Sense UK explain that the main difference between a sunblock and a sunscreen lies in the way the product protects the skin from the sun’s UV rays. Sunscreen (or chemical sunscreen) is the most popular choice in the UK. It works by using certain chemicals to filter out the sun’s UV rays once they’re absorbed into the skin, but before they can penetrate the deeper dermal layer. A sunblock, on the other hand, sits on top of the skin and reflects UV rays away from the skin before it gets absorbed.

How to use sunscreen and sunblock on kids

It’s worth noting that no sun protection product - whether it’s labelled sunblock or sunscreen - is 100% effective at blocking out all the effects of the sun’s rays. Another factor to consider is how you apply the product. 

If you’re using a traditional sunblock, make sure to apply just before your child heads outside, but if you’re using a sunscreen, it’s important to apply at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun as it takes time for the skin to absorb the product efficiently.

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