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Keep Your Kids Safe This Summer With These Ultra-Gentle Sunscreens

Prevention Logo By Brittany Risher, Alisa Hrustic of Prevention | Slide 1 of 12: This article was medically reviewed by Caroline Chang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board.Wrestling with your toddler as you try to apply his sunscreen or arguing with your daughter to put on SPF before she goes to day camp is nobody’s idea of fun—but it’s essential to protect your little ones from the sun’s harmful UV rays.No matter how your kid reacts to putting on sunscreen, with all of the lotions, sticks, sprays, and creams with “baby” or “kids” on the label, the hardest thing may be choosing which one to use. That’s why we consulted six dermatologists to find out exactly what you need to look for when buying, and named the best sunscreens for kids and babies in 2020.Important reminder: If your infant is less than six months old, both the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend keeping your baby out of the sun (and avoiding sunscreen if you can), as their skin is highly sensitive and has too little melanin, making them more susceptible to sun damage. Instead, if you must have your infant out in the sun, dress them in lightweight long sleeves and pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect them from head to toe. Once your child is 6 months old, make sure you apply SPF liberally whenever they’re spending time in the sun.How to choose (and use) the best sunscreens for kids and babiesUse a high SPF: A water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will be the safest choice for your kids. This ensures your sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays.Choose mineral: Many dermatologists prefer physical (a.k.a. mineral) sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which deflect sun rays, whereas a chemical sunscreen absorbs them, says Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. These natural sunscreens are often gentler on kids’ sensitive skin. (Mineral formulas are also reef-safe, so you’ll keep coral-damaging chemicals out of our oceans, too.)“Babies and kids have thinner skin and a higher surface to volume ratio,” says Julia Tzu, M.D., founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology. Because their skin absorbs more per unit of body weight than an adult does, “it’s important to make sure that whatever you put on their skin is ‘pure,’” she adds. Translation: Avoid using sunscreens with chemical ingredients (such as oxybenzone or avobenzone), as they have a higher risk for irritation.Go for lotions: Although sprays are easy to apply, most people don’t apply them effectively. “Improper application can result in poor outcomes. You can’t spray it like perfume or spring water—the nozzle should be about 2 centimeters away from the skin and you should see the liquid on the skin,” says Adam Friedman, M.D., professor of dermatology and residency program director at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Sticks are also crowd favorites, but need four passes on each area of skin to have any effect,” he adds. The bottom line: Lotions tend to be best unless you can diligently apply spray or stick sunscreen.Now that you know what to look for, we asked our experts to recommend their top picks. Check out the best sunscreens for babies and children below, and remember to apply every two hours and more frequently if your little one is sweating or playing in the water.

This article was medically reviewed by Caroline Chang, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and member of the Prevention Medical Review Board.

Wrestling with your toddler as you try to apply his sunscreen or arguing with your daughter to put on SPF before she goes to day camp is nobody’s idea of fun—but it’s essential to protect your little ones from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

No matter how your kid reacts to putting on sunscreen, with all of the lotions, sticks, sprays, and creams with “baby” or “kids” on the label, the hardest thing may be choosing which one to use. That’s why we consulted six dermatologists to find out exactly what you need to look for when buying, and named the best sunscreens for kids and babies in 2020.

Important reminder: If your infant is less than six months old, both the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend keeping your baby out of the sun (and avoiding sunscreen if you can), as their skin is highly sensitive and has too little melanin, making them more susceptible to sun damage. Instead, if you must have your infant out in the sun, dress them in lightweight long sleeves and pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses to protect them from head to toe. Once your child is 6 months old, make sure you apply SPF liberally whenever they’re spending time in the sun.

How to choose (and use) the best sunscreens for kids and babies

Use a high SPF: A water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher will be the safest choice for your kids. This ensures your sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays.

Choose mineral: Many dermatologists prefer physical (a.k.a. mineral) sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which deflect sun rays, whereas a chemical sunscreen absorbs them, says Meghan Feely, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New Jersey and New York City who serves as a clinical instructor at Mount Sinai. These natural sunscreens are often gentler on kids’ sensitive skin. (Mineral formulas are also reef-safe, so you’ll keep coral-damaging chemicals out of our oceans, too.)

“Babies and kids have thinner skin and a higher surface to volume ratio,” says Julia Tzu, M.D., founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology. Because their skin absorbs more per unit of body weight than an adult does, “it’s important to make sure that whatever you put on their skin is ‘pure,’” she adds. Translation: Avoid using sunscreens with chemical ingredients (such as oxybenzone or avobenzone), as they have a higher risk for irritation.

Go for lotions: Although sprays are easy to apply, most people don’t apply them effectively. “Improper application can result in poor outcomes. You can’t spray it like perfume or spring water—the nozzle should be about 2 centimeters away from the skin and you should see the liquid on the skin,” says Adam Friedman, M.D., professor of dermatology and residency program director at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “Sticks are also crowd favorites, but need four passes on each area of skin to have any effect,” he adds. The bottom line: Lotions tend to be best unless you can diligently apply spray or stick sunscreen.

Now that you know what to look for, we asked our experts to recommend their top picks. Check out the best sunscreens for babies and children below, and remember to apply every two hours and more frequently if your little one is sweating or playing in the water.

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