Best Sunscreens for Babies

Updated April 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

19 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
163 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best sunscreens for babies

Last Updated April 2019

Although we love to squeeze and pinch babies’ chubby cheeks, their skin is actually quite delicate. More sensitive to sun than adults, babies are at high risk for sunburn. This is why most sunscreens for babies have a high SPF of 50 or 60 for maximum protection. Many are also hypoallergenic and free from chemicals and fragrance.

You can’t be too careful when protecting your baby from the sun, and using a sunscreen specifically formulated for a baby is an important precaution to take. (It is also helpful to cover your tot’s exposed skin with a wide-brimmed hat and clothing!) Caretakers are faced with lots of choices when shopping for baby sunscreen. There are lotions, sprays, and sticks. There are mineral-based baby sunscreens and broad-spectrum baby sunscreens. All of these choices can lead to lots of anxiety, especially when it concerns your child’s health and safety. 

We’re here to help you wade through these choices and considerations, so you can enjoy your time at the beach or pool with your little one and not fret about whether their sunscreen is working.

Baby skin is thinner than adult skin. In fact, the epidermis is one-third the thickness of adult skin.

Baby skin vs. adult skin

Baby sunscreen is only recommended for babies ages six months and older. Using sunscreen on babies under six months of age is controversial, and it’s best to consult your pediatrician about what you should do to protect your infant’s skin.

As with adults, it is important to protect babies’ skin every day, even if it’s cloudy out. Because a baby’s skin is thinner, is more sensitive than an adult’s skin and contains less melanin, which naturally protects us from the sun.

Babies also have a larger surface-area-to-body-weight ratio than children and adults — four times greater, in fact! Not only does this make babies more susceptible to sunburns, it also leaves them vulnerable to more exposure and deeper penetration of chemicals.

Types of baby sunscreen

Creams and lotions

Traditional sunscreen comes in cream or lotion form. When it comes to sunscreen products, the terms “cream” and “lotion” are often used interchangeably, though cream is technically thicker than lotion. In either form, choose one that isn’t greasy and absorbs easily into the skin.

Stick sunscreens

Stick sunscreens come in a dispenser similar to that of a deodorant stick, but they are usually smaller (.47 to 1.5 ounces). These solids glide easily onto the skin and save your hands from getting sticky. If you’re caring for a wiggly little one, this easy application streamlines a potentially messy, tearful process.

Spray sunscreens

Spray sunscreens for babies come in pump or aerosol bottles. Although aerosol sunscreens are the easiest to apply of all sunscreen types, you may not want your infant to inhale the nanoparticles they emit. Opt for a pump spray and be sure to coat the skin evenly.

CAUTION

Because of their thinner skin, babies have an increased risk of absorption of chemicals that can be absorbed through the skin.

Baby sunscreen formulas

Physical/mineral sunscreens

Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are less likely to cause irritation to sensitive infant skin. These minerals work by physically blocking the UV rays of the sun and reflecting them off the skin. The formulas tend to be harder to rub in and may leave a white cast.

Chemical/organic sunscreens

When it comes to sunscreen, an “organic” designation can actually refer to the chemical use of the sunscreen to absorb the rays of the sun and convert it to heat. In contrast, sunscreens that use minerals as physical blockers are referred to as “inorganic.” Common chemical ingredients that diminish UV radiation include PABA, oxybenzone, avobenzone, and octinoxate. Most baby experts advise opting for a physical sunscreen over a chemical one.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

It is not advised to use sunscreen on babies under the age of six months.

Features

Broad-spectrum (also known as full-spectrum) baby sunscreen protects tender skin from both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays can travel through glass, so even in the car, your infant could be exposed to cancer-causing radiation. UVB rays are present in the atmosphere every time we step outside and are also linked to skin cancer. It’s best to select a sunscreen that protects the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. 

Water-resistant baby sunscreen stays on in the water for 40 minutes or 80 minutes, as designated on the label. Be aware that if a sunscreen isn’t labeled water-resistant, it will not maintain protection when your baby is splashing around. No sunscreens, adults or baby, are completely waterproof. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to reapply immediately after swimming.

Hypoallergenic skin care products cause fewer allergic reactions, and because baby skin is thinner and lacks protective agents that adults have, it is more prone to rashes and allergic reactions. If your baby suffers from eczema, a common skin condition, select a hypoallergenic sunscreen.

Fragrance-free baby sunscreen carries no scent to irritate little noses. Synthetic fragrances could also irritate delicate skin, so you may want to select a baby sunscreen that is fragrance-free.

Tear-free baby sunscreen won’t sting little eyeballs if it happens to get in the eyes from rubbing, sweating, or splashing in the water.

Organic baby sunscreen is made from ingredients that are certified organic. Most natural sunscreens labeled organic have plant-derived ingredients that have not been exposed to agricultural chemicals, like pesticides or herbicides. Don’t confuse this use of the term “organic” with sunscreens that use carbon-based chemicals to protect against sunlight.

EXPERT TIP

In addition to a high-SPF baby sunscreen, keep babies in the shade when the sun’s UV rays are highly intense, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.


Staff  | BestReviews

Sunscreen for babies: prices

Baby sunscreens range in price from $6 to $26.

A low-priced baby sunscreen starts at $6 and goes up to $11. These are brands you can find in your drugstore. They tend to be the organic type of baby sunscreen that provides chemical protection against the sun. Many stick forms of baby sunscreen can be found here.

For a mid-priced baby sunscreen, expect to pay between $12 and $16. Mineral-based sunscreens fall into this price range.

Top-of-the-line baby sunscreens start at $17 and go up to $26. These are often formulated with only the purest, safest ingredients for baby skin. These usually use mineral-based protection as well.

Tips

  • For a leak-proof sunscreen you can toss in a diaper bag without worry, opt for a baby sunscreen stick. As long as you cap it, it won’t make a mess in your bag.
  • When using a sunscreen on your baby for the first time, patch test the sunscreen on a small part of your baby’s skin to make sure your baby can tolerate the product.
  • You may wish to avoid sunscreens that contain PABA or oxybenzone, two chemicals common in “organic” sunscreens and that are associated with skin reactions.
  • Always apply baby sunscreen 15 minutes prior to exposure and reapply every two hours, or sooner if your baby was in the water.
You don’t have to be a baby to use baby sunscreen. If you have sensitive skin or are pregnant and don’t want to be exposed to chemicals, go ahead and slather on a baby sunscreen.

Other products we considered

A popular, safe sunscreen for your baby (and kids!) is Badger SPF 30 Baby Sunscreen Cream. This mid-priced cream is impressively recommended both by pediatricians and the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Its broad-spectrum protection uses non-nano zinc oxide as a physical blocker and is non-irritating to sensitive or eczema-prone skin. Badger is dedicated to using non-GMO and organic ingredients, and even the tube itself is BPA-free.

 

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby Sunscreen SPF 30+ Broad Spectrum is another top choice with ingredients rated safe by the EWG. Its zinc oxide/titanium dioxide formula is recommended by dermatologists and is easier to rub in than competing mineral-based brands. The bottle itself turns pink in UV light, which is a fun feature for kids and helpful for caregivers to know when to use this UVA and UVB protectant.

FAQ

Q. What does the SPF number mean in terms of reapplying sunscreen on my baby?
A.
The SPF, or sun protection factor, of a sunscreen is a measurement of how well it protects skin against damage from UVB rays. For instance, if it takes 20 minutes for your skin to burn, an SPF 15 will prevent reddening for 15 times longer than that — about five hours. However, this measurement doesn’t take into account the harmful damage from UVA rays. Another problem with the SPF model is that no sunscreen should be expected to work after two hours without reapplication, and the fact that your skin isn’t red doesn’t mean it hasn’t been damaged. For this reason, consider applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF every two hours to your baby — and more often than that if the little one has been in the water or has been perspiring.

Q. I plan to take my family swimming in the ocean. Is my baby’s sunscreen safe to use in a coral reef area?
A.
You are right to be concerned because when you swim in the ocean, a fair amount of sunscreen ends up in the water. You will want to purchase a reef-safe baby sunscreen that doesn’t contain chemicals that could harm and kill coral reefs. In fact, in some locales, it is required that swimmers wear mineral-based sunscreen only.

The team that worked on this review
  • Amy
    Amy
    Writer
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

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