What is the best sunscreen for children?

Sunscreen for children is crucial for everyday

Picture it - a parent is standing in the sunscreen aisle at the local drug store, staring glossy-eyed at the shelves, determined to pick the best sunscreen for their kids. More often than not, they are dazed and confused by the countless bottles of lotions, gels, and sprays arranged so nicely on the selves right in front of their eyes.

Most parents usually decide on a sunscreen made specifically for children and with the highest SPF they can find. However, there are more important things to consider in sunscreens than just SPF 50+.

We hope to answer some of those bewildering questions here so you can make the best choice about sunscreen for your children.

However, choosing the right sunscreen is only half the battle, getting them to wear it is another issue altogether. Here are some tips to get your kids to apply sunscreen.

What’s the difference between sunscreen and sunblock?

  • Sunscreens use chemicals to absorb UV rays.

  • Sunblocks physically deflect UV rays away from the skin.

Broad Spectrum Protection: New formulations in the sunscreen market have created “Broad Spectrum” protection. This provides protection against UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays with a combination of both chemical absorbers and physical blockers.

TIP: Parents should always look for products labeled Broad Spectrum to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

SPF - What do the numbers really mean?

SPF-(Sun Protection Factor) measures the length of time a sunscreen will protect your skin from reddening or burning from UVB rays, compared to how long your skin would take to redden/ burn without sunscreen protection.

Don’t be swayed by high SPF numbers alone, research has proven that SPF greater then 30, does very little to increase protection. Sometimes it does the exact opposite, it gives a parent an over-confidence about the protection provided and they forget to reapply every two hours, defeating the purpose altogether.

TIP: SPF 15-30 is a good standard, SPF 30 is preferred for fair skinned children.

Sunscreen Ingredients: Let’s review the ingredients used in common sunscreens:

Many parents are concerned about the amount of chemicals used in sunscreen for children, and rightly so. The higher the SPF usually means more chemicals are needed to make them work. However, we still need to use sunscreen on our kids.

To protect against both UVA and UVB rays, look for one of the following main ingredients on the label: avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide. For the full effects, make sure that the titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are at least 5%.

Avobenzone is a chemical created to absorb UVA rays. A main ingredient in most sunscreens on the market today is can be absorbed into the skin.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are natural mineral UV blockers. They are believed to cause less skin irritation because these ingredients stay on top of the skin rather unlike the chemical ingredients which can be absorbed.

If your child gets a rash from sunscreen, look for one that is:

  • Fragrance free
  • PABA free
  • Hypoallergenic

TIP: Children’s sunscreens often contain fewer fragrances and chemicals, such as avobenzone. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are less irritating to sensitive skin which is why they are used more often in children’s sunscreens.

Always do a skin patch test on your child before lathering up all over.

Water Resistant and Waterproof:

The FDA defines water resistant and waterproof sunscreens as:

  • Water resistant: maintain their SPF rating for at least 40 minutes after water exposure.
  • Waterproof: maintain their SPF rating for at least 80 minutes after water exposure.

TIP: Even if your kids are not going swimming, a water resistant sunscreen is preferred for children.

There are many advertised brands of sunscreen for children, but only a few differences between sunscreen for children and adults. The main difference is in the ingredients.

The best sunscreen for children recommended by Consumer Reports:

Blue Lizard Baby Suncream SPF 30. It’s fragrance and chemical free and contains titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. It is the same as their adult Sensitive skin formula, but in a different bottle. Sometimes Blue Lizard products are hard to find in retail store, but it is easy to find in on-line shops, such as drugstore.com.

Find Blue Lizard SPF 30+ hereicon

Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sunblock Lotion SPF 30 - (also available in SPF 50). This offers broad spectrum protection, but is not chemical free. It is easy to apply and does not irritate the eyes.

Buy Banana Boat Tear Free Sunscreenicon

California Baby No-Fragrance SPF 30+ Sunscreen Lotion. This sunscreen is recommended for the face and bodies of babies and children. Is water resistant and its active ingredient is titanium dioxide. The downside is it is very expensive – about $20 for 2.9 oz.

To purchase California Baby - No Fragrance Sunscreenicon

This is a very short list of sunscreen for children. Blue Lizard, Banana Boat along with Coppertone, Neutrogena, Bull Frog, Hawaiian Tropic and others have full product lines of sunscreens that are available for you and your children. With this information, parents now have the knowledge to gauge each products pro’s and con’s to choose the right sunscreen for their children.

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