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How Do I Choose the Best Kids' Sunscreen?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are several things to look for when choosing the best kids' sunscreen. The best sunscreens provide broad-spectrum coverage, have a higher Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating, are gentle on skin and easy to apply. A sunscreen doesn't have to be labeled as a children's sunscreen for it to be effective and safe for children as long as it has the appropriate protections and characteristics.

When choosing a kids' sunscreen, look for one that says "broad-spectrum coverage" on the label. This means that the sunscreen is meant to protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) rays and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to skin cancer and skin aging. UVA rays penetrate the skin and cause tanning, while UVB rays, which don't penetrate skin as deeply, are blamed for sunburn.

Another very important thing to consider when choosing a kids' sunscreen is its SPF rating. Look for an SPF rating of 15 or above. There is some debate with experts about whether sunscreens with extremely high SPF ratings offer better protection. Some experts believe that above an SPF 45 or 50 rating, there is not significantly better protection offered, which might be a consideration if higher cost is involved.

Sunscreen that is gentle on the skin is important for the sometimes more sensitive skin of kids and babies. When choosing the best kids' sunscreen, look for bottles that are labeled as hypoallergenic and fragrance free, meaning that the bottles are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Hypoallergenic and fragrance free sunscreen might also be less irritating should it get into kids' eyes.

Waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen is also a good idea whether kids will be swimming or not. It might provide longer and stronger protection, even from perspiration. Waterproof or water-resistant sunscreen might also help protect against sunscreen running into eyes.

A sunscreen is only as good as its application and if it isn't applied properly or at all, it won't guard skin again skin damage. When choosing a kids' sunscreen, look for one that is easy for both adults and kids to apply. Sunscreen comes in rub-on lotion, gel and spray-on forms and one form of sunscreen isn't necessarily stronger than another.

For some children and parents, a spray-on might be easier to use and ensure more consistent coverage, while for others rub on creams or gels are better. Be cautious if using a spray-on sunscreen on the face, however, so spray doesn't go into the eyes or mouth. Some experts believe that the chemical content in spray-on sunscreens might not be safe to inhale, so choosing a cream or gel for the face might be a better option.

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