How to Choose Sunscreens for Your Kids

girl at the beach sunscreen on face

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The Best and Safest Sunscreens for Toddlers and Young Kids

Sun protection is an important part of life!  I have spent a lot of time learning how to choose a sunscreen for my kids.  The main things to consider are the type of sunscreen (mineral vs. chemical) and the way the sunscreen is applied (lotion, brush-on, or spray.)

The best option to choose is a healthy mineral sunscreen applied as a lotion or brush-on sunscreen!  Also, don’t just rely on sunblock for your sun protection, use cute hats, shades, and even cover-ups to protect little ones from the sun’s UV rays.

girl on beach with hat, shade, sunscreen

So, let’s get out there and play in the sun, safely!  Read on for the important details and a list of my favorite sunscreen brands!

At What Age Can Kids Use Sunscreen?

For those of us who get outdoors a lot, sunscreen is an important part of preparing for our day.  I want to talk about sunscreen for toddlers and young kids, but what about babies?

According to my Pediatrician and the Mayo Clinic, which I find to be a reliable source of information, sunscreen can be applied to kids 6 months and older.

little girl in sun hat

So, all the following can apply to kids older than 6 months of age, but be sure to check with your pediatrician too.

Remember, shade is a great sunblock too!  Especially for babies, their sensitive skin does best with hats, shades, and staying out of the brightest mid-day direct sunlight.

Do Kids Need Special Sunscreen?

There are lots of different sunscreens out there.  The truth is you don’t have to use a sunscreen that is labeled for kids.

However, the kid’s formulations do tend to have fewer ingredients that might be irritating to the skin.

That being said, it’s best to do our homework when looking at all of the sunscreen ingredients!  If that sounds like too much trouble, you can read my list below of my favorites and I’ve already done the homework for you!

I use a combination of kids’ sunscreen and some “adult” sunscreens for my kids.

hat and sunscreens

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (, you should choose a sunscreen that is broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB), SPF 30 or more, and is water-resistant.

Mineral vs. Chemical Sunscreen

There are two different general types of sunscreen.  Mineral vs. chemical sunscreen.  This just means there are different active ingredients in the sunscreen. 

These active ingredients work in different ways.  Mineral sunscreens (think Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide) physically block the sun’s UV rays from getting on or into your skin.  Chemical sunscreens (think all the other long complicated names on sunscreen active ingredient labels) actually allow the sun’s UV rays into your skin and then these chemicals absorb or gather up the UV rays.

If you want even more details about the differences click here.

Why I Avoid Chemical Sunscreen

I only use mineral sunscreen for my children and myself.  Now, remember, I’m not a dermatologist so don’t hesitate to ask yours what’s best.  However, I have read enough about these products, that I have been convinced to avoid non-mineral sunscreens for our family.

Not to mention my pediatrician advised us to only use mineral sunscreens.

He even told us that the other alphabet soup ingredients in the other kinds of sunscreen are toxic (and some are even linked to cancer…yikes!). 

How to Apply Sunscreen

The best way to apply sunscreen to our little kids is whatever way that they are willing to let you put it on! 

I usually start with the areas that don’t tickle so much.  So, I start with legs, arms, then trunk then face and finally their necks, which are very ticklish for them.

Try not to make a big deal about it, it’s just a part of getting ready to go.  We get dressed, get shoes, get sunscreen, get sunglasses and hats, and grab their water bottles.

toddler laying on towel getting sunscreen on

Make sure to check out the instructions on the bottle!!  Follow their guidelines for when and how often to apply.

You should usually apply before you go out in the sun (like 15-30 minutes ahead), then re-apply every 2 hours or so.

Lotion and Brush on Sunscreen are the Best

I’ve truly found the lotion and the Brush-on sunscreens to be the best ones to apply to our kids.  The spray-on sunscreens have enough limits that I don’t use them often, but they do have some benefits.  See below for a bit about spray-on sunscreen.


Lotion sunscreen is great because it is easy to make sure you don’t miss any spots. You can see where it is being applied.

Just be prepared, lotion mineral sunscreen is thick, and you will want to wash your hands after you apply it!  I think I’ve found a couple of brands that are a bit easier to apply, but still, I usually wipe or rinse my fingertips when I’m done.

hand pouring sunscreen on other hand

This seems like a small price to pay to keep my kids safe!

A great trick for the face:  place small dots of lotion on the forehead, cheeks, chin, and nose.  Then gently rub it in from the center outward!

Brush on Sunscreen

Brush on Sunscreen is practically a miracle!

I found Colorescience brush on sunscreen when my Dad told me about it.  His dermatologist recommended it!

I absolutely love the Colorescience brush on sunscreen.  I use this for myself and my girls nearly every day!

Brush on sunscreen is grease-free. No mess for your hands!!!

Brush on Sunscreen

Brush on sunscreen is easy to use.  I also use this on their heads, like in the part line or on a toddler that doesn’t have much hair you can just use it on their whole head!!

This is pretty much my go-to sunscreen for playing in the yard, a trip to the park, or any other shorter outing.  I also use this to reapply sunscreen.

I think it would work for a whole day out too, but to be honest I usually use the lotion if we are spending a full day out. 

This works so nicely on faces!  Do yourself a favor and check it out!  See my links below for specific brands.

What About Spray-On Sunscreen?

I think spray-on sunscreen does have its uses!  I mean if you are taking a trip to the beach, reapplying sunscreen is just so much easier with the spray.  Rubbing lotion into sandy skin is not ideal.

However, I don’t use the spray in faces, or even use this type of spray near faces.  And, if you are going to spray it in your hands and rub it in, then you should just use the lotion.

There have been reports that spraying the particles of sunscreen allows us to breathe in the active ingredients.  There is concern that inhaling these products can cause health problems.

Also, there have been issues with some of the ingredients in the spray causing skin irritation.

finger on spray-on sunscreen bottle

So, use the spray only when necessary, but it’s better to use it than not have any sunscreen on!  I do have spray sunscreen, and I do use it sometimes.  Let’s face it, squirming sandy children do best with the spray!

What Resources Do I Use to Determine Safe Brands?

So, now do you feel unsure what Sunscreen to get!  Don’t worry.  Here are some of the places I look to see if my sunscreen is safe, effective, and easy to use.

First, talk to your kids’ doctor if you have any questions.  Especially if you have any concern with skin sensitivity.  They can usually guide you.

Also, if you are wondering about the safety of all those ingredients that are hard to pronounce you can always look at the Environmental Working Group here:

This is a website that rates the safety of products.  When looking at this site and your product, make sure to also take in all the other considerations- like the dermatologist’s recommendations above.

My Favorite Brands of Sunscreen for Kids

OK.  So, now you have some ideas about how to choose a sunscreen.  You can go out and buy the best, safest, and easiest to use sunscreen.

You can either, start evaluating on your own with resources above or you can look here at my list of best sunscreens and pick one of these.

The Best Lotion Sunscreens for Kids

— My favorite Lotion type of Sunscreen is Cotz brand. It’s also dermatologist recommended!  Check out their family sunscreen or the kids one for the best Cotz sunscreen for your family.

California Baby is also excellent or this one from California Baby.

Badger Sunscreen works well too.

The Best Brush-On Sunscreens for Your Kids

Colorescience is my favorite!

— This brush-on sunscreen can be found at Amazon. 

Now You’re Ready for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

There really are a lot of different options when it comes to sunscreen.  Just remember the tips I’ve given you.  Use shade when you can.  Use hats, sunglasses, even sun shirts, and rashguard bathing suits.

child on beach with hat, sunscreen, rashgaurd

But, we all know that playing in the sun is fun!  You can’t completely avoid the sunshine, nor should you.  So, make sure to use sunscreen to protect your little ones. 

You now have a list of safe, effective, and easy to use sunscreens!!  Get out there and play!

If you are heading to the beach don’t miss my article What to Bring to the Beach With a Toddler!

Please let me know which sunscreen you use!

The Best and Safest Sunscreens for Toddlers and Young Kids

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