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Best Sunscreens for Kids

When you're standing in the aisle of your local pharmacy or superstore shopping for sunscreens for your kids, you might be a little overwhelmed by the choices. There are numerous sun protection products for children on the market right now, in every consistency from thick cream to weightless "sport" sprays and ranging in price from economical to "I don't think so."

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All this variety may make you think back to your own childhood, when you most likely didn't apply sunscreen unless you were on the beach, and the products you had to choose from then were nothing like what's available to us today.

Over the last 20 years, we've learned more and more about the dangers of overexposure to the sun. While skin cancer is the biggest concern, it isn't the only one. The sun can damage the skin, causing discoloration, premature aging and other problems over time.

Despite its destructive abilities, the sun isn't really our enemy; it helps our bodies produce vitamin D, a nutrient that's essential to proper bone growth and development. Spending time in the sun may also help fight certain cancers, depression, and other health problems.

The key is just not to overdo it. Skin cancer is a very real risk, and being in the sun for long periods of time unprotected greatly increases the chances of developing this disease.
It's very important that our children learn to both enjoy and respect the sun, and that they get on board with a sun care regimen as early as possible.

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What To Look For

When you're shopping for children's sunscreen, remember to choose one that:

  • Has broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. This will help protect your child's skin from both the tanning rays and the burning rays of the sun;
  • Is mild and suitable for a child's sensitive skin; and
  • Is convenient to use. No parent wants to try to apply goopy, dripping sunscreen to a wiggly toddler or impatient older child. Find a children's formula that sprays on, or at least one that absorbs quickly and is non-greasy.

Using a waterproof sun product for kids is also a good idea. Children love to get wet when it's hot outside, and even if they're not in the water, they will probably be sweating. Most children won't be reapplying their sunscreen as diligently as they should, so pick one that won't wash away easily.

Always remember to reapply sunscreen frequently. One application of a sun protection won't last all day. Read and follow the package directions.

Apply the first round of sunscreen around 30 minutes before going out into the sun. Most sun products need time to absorb into the skin and start working.
You may want to purchase a sunblock rather than a sunscreen if your child has very fair and/or sensitive skin. Sunblocks do a better job keeping out the sun's harmful rays.

Everyday Favorites

Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen is one of the most popular children's sunscreens on the market. Its distinctive pink bottle and cute baby and dog logo has been part of American kids' summer experience for decades.

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The formula is gentle and non-stinging, and the light powdery scent is very pleasant. It comes in lotion and lotion spray form and in SPF ratings up to 70+.

The one complaint some moms have about Water Babies is that it's a bit greasy and slow to dry. Otherwise, it gets thumbs up all around.

If your kids sometimes end up with sunscreen in their eyes following a swim, try Banana Boat Tear-Free Kid's Sunscreen Lotion-Spray SPF 50. Its mild, non-irritating formula won't sting skin or eyes.

The lotion-spray formula is easy to use. It goes on white so you can make sure all of your child's skin is covered, then dries clear.

Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard plus IR3535 Disappearing Color plus SPF 30 Sunscreen Lotion has a really long name, but also a great reputation. This is a 3-in-1 product: it protects skin with an SPF of 30, repels insects, and goes on blue so that moms can see where the lotion is going and kids can have a bit of fun.

Some mothers have concerns about this product having an SPF of only 30, when other children's products have SPFs up to 70+. While the big numbers may seem better, many dermatologists agree that any SPF over 30 doesn't really provide that much additional protection.
Hawaiian Tropic Kids Sunblock 60+ SPF is a nice choice for your little beach bums. It's lightly scented with a fruity island fragrance both moms and kids will enjoy. This formula is water resistant for up to 4 hours, and it has less chemical sunscreens than many other products. Be ready to pay more for this product than you would for some other sunscreens.

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Natural Choices

California Baby SPF 30+ No Fragrance Sunscreen is a good product for children with sensitive skin or allergies to fragrance. It's a nice, simple product that is PABA-free and chemical-free. It's a thick formula which most parents found isn't drippy and that holds up nicely even after swimming. Also try California Baby No Fragrance SPF 30 + Sunblock Stick. It's quick and mess-free sun protection for little noses and cheeks.

Blue Lizard Suncream Sensitive SPF 30 + is another chemical and fragrance-free sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection for babies and kids. This formula is excellent for children with sensitive skin. Parents may find that the thick, creamy consistency of this product is a bit difficult to apply and that it doesn't get absorbed entirely into the skin. However, it is very water resistant.

TruKid Sunny Days SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion is a fairly new product, but it's getting a lot of buzz. The Environmental Working Group has given it the highest rating of any kid's sunscreen. TruKid uses a natural mineral sunscreen formula, and all their products are free of phthalates and BPA. Most parents who've used this product report that it works very well, and that it smells great, too.