The Best Kids’ Sunscreens To Protect Their Skin This Summer, Plus Application Tips From An Expert

Get your little ones sun-ready with the best SPFs for kids.

best kids suncream

by Remy Farrell |
Updated on

There’s no denying it – it’s never an easy chore to slather sunscreen on kids. Whether they’re squirming, screaming or crying (all three feel likely) it’s never the most pleasant of sunny day tasks. One thing that shouldn’t be challenging, however, is which SPF you choose for your little ones in the first place. For many parents, it’s about kids' sunscreens that provide excellent protection, sink into the skin comfortably, and are void of any 'nasty' ingredients. Yet, with so many products out there, it can be something of a minefield to work out what can be trusted. With this in mind, let's talk SPFs for kids, and keep scrolling for our product recommendations, plus more top tips from the experts.

Why do kids need sunscreen?

Let's begin with the basics. We know that a daily SPF is important for our own skin (no matter our skin tone) but equally important is protecting our children's delicate skin from the same harsh UVA and UVB rays that can lead to cell damage and sunburn (and later on dark spots and pigmentation).

While we appreciate that it can be tricky to actually apply the lotion to your children, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of applying (and re-applying) an SPF on warm days - and yes, that includes while they're at school.

The best kids' sunscreens at a glance:

Best overall: La Roche Posay, Anthelios Invisible Kids Spray SPF 50+, £21.51 on Look Fantastic

Best for sensitive skin: Green People Organic Children's Sun Lotion, £24.30 on Sephora

Best kids' sunscreen for swimming: Soltan Kids Once 3hr Waterplay Lotion SPF 50+, £11 on Boots

Best kids' sunscreen applicator: Solar Buddies Sun Cream Applicator Blue, £6.78 on Boots

How to apply kids' sunscreen:

'For babies older than six months and children, always apply sunscreen before heading outside,' says Dr Tamara Alireza at Skinfluencer London. 'Then, reapply every two hours or after your child has been in the water. Spread a generous amount of product liberally on all exposed areas of the body.'

What SPF factor should children use?

Most experts recommend an SPF 30 or upwards for children, but what's equally important is checking that it covers the broad spectrum protection to block UVA rays, too.

The NHS recommends that babies should be kept out of direct strong sunlight, so invest in a parasol for holidays. And although March to October are the sunniest months in the UK, UV radiation is present all year round, so cloud cover isn't a reason not to lotion up.

'I would not use sunscreen liberally on babies less than six months old,' confirms Dr Alierza. 'Instead, it is better to keep very young babies in the shade and dress them in protective clothing including a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved jumpsuit. You should only apply sunscreen on the areas that are exposed such as hands and face rather than the whole body.'

SHOP: The Best Sunscreen For Kids 2024

Best overall

La Roche Posay's grown-up SPFs are bestsellers for a reason (and a firm favourite of team Grazia), but this invisible spray has been specifically developed to be gentle on even sensitive skin, and comes in an easy-to-apply spray bottle. We love that it's infused with thermal spring water for refreshing and cooling mist, absorbs into the skin quickly, leaving a non-greasy texture, and is water, sweat and sand-resistant.

Best kids' suncreen for sensitive skin

Green People Organic Children Sun Lotion SPF30 Scent FreeGreen People

An organic, natural lotion suited to kids with eczema and psoriasis-prone skin, this one is ideal for those who suffer from irritating prickly heat. It's non-comedogenic, so it won't block pores, and it's fragrance-free, too. We love that it's packed with skin-loving ingredients such as myrrh and rosemary to soothe, plus avocado and aloe vera to moisturise.

Best kids' sunscreen for swimming

Soltan is a staple brand when it comes to sunscreen, and this option is brilliant for holidays with a pool or days spent in the paddling pool in the garden. Dermatologically tested and with five-star UVA protection, it contains vitamins C and E to moisturise skin. Plus, we love that the tube is made from at least 50% recycled plastic. Reviewers like that it's not sticky, it lasts for a long time, it doesn't come off in the water, and it's suitable for those with sensitive skin.

Best mousse kids' sunscreen

What's great about a mousse formula is that it dries quickly, so it's ideal if your kids can't wait to get into the water and play. Reviewers suggest that the trick is not to use too much product at once; otherwise, it can become sticky and not dry as quickly. Suitable for sensitive skin, water resistant, and non-comedogenic, a little goes a long way.

Best kids' sunscreen for darker skin tones

Sun Bum Kids Clear Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 50Sun Bum
Price: $12.49

For a kids' sunscreen that doesn't leave a white cast, this Sun Bum option is not only clear, but it's in stick form, meaning it's super easy to apply. It has a light, tropical smell and is the perfect size for travelling. Reviewers have stated that even the fussiest of kids don't mind having this applied, which is a win in our books.

Best kids' sunscreen for fairer skin tones

If you're a fan of Avéne's skincare products (and we are), you might be tempted to grab the brand's children's sunscreen, and you won't be disappointed. Formulated for children with sensitive skin, fair skin and light skin, it offers high protection plus soothes skin thanks to the thermal spring water we know and love. There's also a spray version if you prefer.

Best eco-friendly kids' sunscreen

Childs Farm Kids And Baby Sun Cream SPF 50+Childs Farm

Lots of parents swear by Childs Farm products for their children's skincare needs, and this sunscreen comes highly rated. Suitable for sensitive skin and those with eczema, this product also has great eco-conscious credentials, as it's The Vegan Society-approved and certified as cruelty-free through the Leaping Bunny Programme. We also love that the formula is kind to the ocean, and that the tube is made from 70% post-consumer recycled plastic, and can be recycled again.

Best sunscreen applicator

Solar Buddies Sun Cream Applicator BlueSolar Buddies

While this isn't technically a sunscreen itself, we had to include this genius applicator on the list, which you might have spotted on Dragon's Den. Simply fill it with your sunscreen of choice and let the roller ball/sponge combo go to work to apply sun cream quickly and with less mess and product waste.

What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

UVA Rays penetrate windows and cloud cover and can cause genetic damage to cells, the same genetic damage that can lead to skin cancer. Think UVA for ageing, as this ultraviolet ray takes its toll on the deeper layers of our skin, creating fine lines and darkening over time. Protect from UVA rays with the broad spectrum protection, look out for the phrase on the label of your children's SPF.

UVB Rays cause suntan, sunburn and, in severe cases, blistering on the skin's surface. The easy way to remember that is that UVB stands for burning. UVB rays are at their strongest when the sun is at its highest and unobstructed by clouds, which is also the most important time for babies and children to wear sun hats and stay hydrated.

What is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreen?

'Generally, sunscreens are classified as either chemical or mineral,' explains Dr. Alireza. 'Chemical sunscreens are absorbers. They filter or absorb UV rays. Through a chemical reaction, they convert UV rays into heat, then release that heat from the skin. Mineral (also called physical) sunscreens, such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are reflectors that act as physical blockers and reflect harmful UV rays before they make contact with the skin’s surface.'

What sunscreen ingredients are bad for children's skin?

'I would avoid using sunscreens with endocrine disruptors such as oxybenzone, parabens and phthalates in their formulations,' says Dr Alierza. 'This is why I would always recommend that my patients try to choose physical sunscreens over their chemical counterparts, especially for children whose skin is sensitive.'

Tanya Rodney, founder of eco-conscious children's grooming brand Dandydill Way, weighs in:

'We tend to think of “natural” ingredients as safest, but where sunscreen is concerned, parents should trust the science. Products claiming an SPF have to be backed by rigorous testing.'

The worst thing you could do? Avoid sunscreen entirely.

What sunscreen ingredients are good for children's skin?

'Certain formulations may include hyaluronic acid, which enhances skin hydration,' says Dr Alierza. 'You can also look to vitamin E, which is a terrific antioxidant.'

Can adults use kids' sunscreen?

Research has shown that you don't necessarily have to buy a separate sun lotion for yourself and your kids, but formulas for children offer sufficient protection and tend to be sensitive-skin-friendly and hypoallergenic for delicate skin.

So whether you're planning a vacation, staycation, or getting active kids ready for outdoor playtime, slather on some SPF goodness and enjoy the sun.

Remy Farrell previously wrote fashion and beauty content for Grazia. With nearly half a decade of experience in shooting, copywriting and editorial shopping pages, she began by interning with some of the industry's leading titles, such as Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan, before freelancing as a celebrity stylist's assistant.

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