Protecting your baby’s precious skin from the sun is important, and while the best advice is to avoid sun exposure completely, especially in babies under six months, it's still wise to buy the best baby sun cream for your baby's delicate skin.
Dr Jennifer Crawley is a leading paediatric dermatologist and consultant for Childs Farm. "UVA rays damage the tissue that provides skin with elasticity, and contributes to skin ageing, while UVB rays don’t penetrate as deeply, but can damage a cell’s DNA and cause it to become cancerous," she says. "SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, measures the amount of UVB protection the sunscreen offers. "It’s important to choose a sunscreen with a high SPF – at least 30 – to ensure a good level of protection. I’d recommend involving your child in the application process so it becomes a fun task that you do together, rather than a dreaded battle."
A baby’s skin has hardly any melanin, which is the pigment that helps protect from the sun’s rays, so if your little one is in direct sunlight, keep them covered so the rays don’t hit the skin directly. Older babies and toddlers can enjoy playing in the sun if they are protected with a high-factor sunscreen. We’ve got everything you need to know about applying sunscreen to children as well as the best suncreams on the market.
Choose your sunscreen carefully
With lots of options to choose from, it can feel like there’s a lot to think about when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen but what exactly should be looking for on the label?
‘Firstly, you want a sunscreen which has broad-spectrum protection, which is where the sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and this is the type of sunscreen you should be buying. There are two types of ray: UVA rays, which damage the tissue that provides her skin with elasticity and contribute to skin ageing; and UVB rays, which don’t penetrate as deeply, but can damage a cell’s DNA and cause it to become cancerous,’ says Dr Crawley.
‘SPF is the ‘sun protection factor’, and it’s important to choose a sunscreen with a high SPF to ensure a good level of protection. The best suncream to purchase is one which has an SPF of at least 30.’
You also want to look for a five-star UV rating in conjunction with a high SPF, as this means it will absorb a high percentage of both UVA and UVB rays. If your baby has particularly sensitive or eczema-prone skin, make sure you are using a product that has been clinically tested as suitable for this skin type or use a product that is dermatologist and paediatrician approved.
The best baby sun cream to protect babies and children
We've shortlisted some of the best sunscreens that will not only protect your children's skin but offer other benefits such as organic ingredients. Scroll down to find one that's right for you.
It’s worth noting, a lot of these sunscreens will not be recommended for babies under six months because they are advised to be kept out of the sun entirely.
Childs Farm products are all designed to take extra care of your little one's skin, and this sun cream with SPF 50+ gives great protection from the sun's powerful rays. It's easy to apply and smells lovely (like all Childs Farm products do); it's suitable from six months.
Review: "Wow with a 6 year old with severe eczema he can’t even wear sunscreen without flaring up with rashes and sores all over his arms, legs back everywhere that has had cream on and then it takes days to get it back under control so he has to stay in. After googling I bought the moisturiser which also works a treat and better than the pharmacy creams I thought I’d give this a go and this was the first time he has had sun cream on without any signs of eczema or scratching."
Read our review of the Childs Farm Sun Range.
With an SPF of 50, this little tube is a great one to have in the baby bag when out and about. It’s suitable for the whole family, whilst being hypoallergenic, water-resistant and fragrance-free, meaning it’s suitable for babies too. Unlike some other sunscreens on this list, this one is more of a milky consistency, meaning it’s not as thick and sticky on the skin – a good choice if you’ve got a fussy toddler who hates having it applied.
Review: "I literally just received this but I’ve just tested it on my skin and really like this product! I thought all sunscreens were greasy but this one is not and instantly sinks into the skin with no greasy residue whatsoever! No white cast either and a very high level of spf!! I look forward to using this and hoping it won’t clog up my skin and cause breakouts but from the texture of it I think it’ll do!"
Suitable for babies from three months, this protective sunscreen has an SPF protection of 50+ and is easy to rub in and absorb and washes off your child’s skin easily. It doesn’t feel overly greasy on the skin, which is good for fussy ones who hate the feel of sunscreen.
Review: "My 2 year old has sensitive eczema skin but this very block is good. He hasn't had any outbreaks with it which is fab. It is a white consistency and you must rub it slightly longer but nothing to worry about as it does the job, which is the main thing."
This clever sand resistant formula is non-sticky and easily absorbed to avoid that sticky feeling. It’s water resistant and has a high SPF factor. It’s also a great choice for fussy babies, as it’s quick and easy to apply with the continuous, any angle spray. It’s also a good one for school-aged children to apply to themselves thanks to the mist spray application.
Review: "This is one of the best sun creams that I have used. It smells lovely, and once I have rubbed it into the kids it's like using a hand cream! The product isn't greasy and hasn't stained any clothing. I will definitely be replacing this with more when I run out."
Another one-a-day sunscreen, UltraSun’s Extreme lotion only requires one application in the morning, although reapplication is recommended for complete protection. A good option for tots who hate having sunscreen applied, it’s got a thick consistency and an easy to use pump dispenser. It can take a while to rub into the skin, but it’s worth it for the long protection.
Review: "Only applied this once to my 9 month old baby about an hour before going out in the sun and it lasted all day including a couple of short dips in the pool throughout the day."
When managing to apply a sun cream one big issue is its stickiness and residues. This is a quick-drying sun care product that will keep the mess away from your baby. It's water resistant, offers up to 8 hours sun protection from just one application and is specially formulated for your child's delicate skin.
Review: "I’ve been using this sun cream for three years and won’t use any others now. Both of my children are very fair and this lasts all day for school for them. It’s quick to apply, not greasy and doesn’t mark clothes."
A once-a-day sunscreen, P20 has a four star UVA protection and factor 50 SPF. Protecting your baby for up to 10 hours, it’s a good choice for school-aged children, or little ones who hate having sunscreen put on though bear in mind it will last three hours in the water. Fragrance free, it’s got more of an oily texture than most of the creams on this list, and it’s very quick and easy to apply with a handy pump. It can stain, however, as it is a yellowish colour, so avoid dressing your little one in white clothing after applying.
Review: "I am very happy with this sun cream. The scent is nice, it absorbs easily and most importantly - can protect for even up to 10 hours. I use it on my son when he goes to school as I am feeling reassured that he can play outside and is still protected."
If you find your toddler puts up a fight at the mere mention of sunscreen, here’s a way to get him interested. The NIVEA SUN Kids Protect & Care Coloured Roll-on is available in green and pink formula so not only can you see exactly where sunscreen has been applied but he’ll have a ball making sure he’s ‘coloured in.’
Review: "We found something similar at the shops (for twice the price) and it worked pretty well, this one has the advantage of being coloured so she can tell if she's rubbed it in properly really easily. Makes less mess when being applied and seems to prevent sunburn to the same extent as other factor 50 sunblocks. This one lives in her school bag so she can reapply it throughout the day, and it's simple enough for her to use herself."
A super spray that will make your life so much easier that you won’t want anything else, as it can work from any direction making sure that it will catch every part of your little one when they can stop moving around. It's also tear-free.
Review: "Love this cream - it has a light feeling and is extremely waterproof. Perfect for my pool loving daughter in Crete. Only had to top up a couple of times each day."
This is another good product if your concern is long lasting, high-protection (5* UVA rating) for sensitive skin. Suitable from six months, this lightweight mousse won't budge whether your youngster is swimming or rolling around in the sand. Evy claims that it's also recommended by dermatologists and although it's expensive, it's got a lot of five star reviews on Amazon.
Review: "Never did I imagine that I would ever get enthusiastic about a sunscreen but this is a wonderful product. It may be a bit expensive, but is worth every penny. Because it is a mousse it is easy to apply and you can see exactly where you have put it. No risk of leaving bits exposed. The quantity seems, at first, to be a bit small but it just lasts, and lasts, and lasts. And you don't need to keep applying it at regular intervals all day. Overall, I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It will certainly be my sunscreen of choice."
How should I apply baby sunscreen to my baby?
Put sunscreen on your youngster at least 15 minutes before they go into the sun, to allow it to dry. It’s a good habit to apply it again once you’re in the sun, just to make sure you cover any bits you missed the first time around. Pay particular attention to often forgotten areas such as the shoulders, back of the neck and behind the ears when applying sunscreen. Some products can be difficult and messy to apply, particularly on a wriggly baby!
'I’d recommend involving your child in the application process so it becomes a fun task that you can do together, rather than a dreaded battle,' suggests Dr Crawley. Roll on suncare products, like Childs Farm SPF 50+ roll-on is easy for children to apply themselves and can even be used to draw patterns or pictures on the skin to make the task a little more exciting. Just be sure to get even coverage all over and make sure you use plenty: 'My rule of thumb is to use two teaspoons of sunscreen to cover the head and neck area and then much more on the body. I would recommend two tablespoons of sunscreen for the rest of the body but always do a test patch a week before you go away, to make sure her skin doesn’t react to any of the ingredients,’ explains Dr Crawley.
Can I use one sunscreen for the entire family?
You’ll need to choose a sunscreen specially formulated for babies and toddlers, so a regular adult sunscreen will not be suitable for children. Not only are these better suited to sensitive skin, but they also work in a different way. Conventional sunblocks will use chemicals to absorb and dissipate the sun’s rays, whereas children’s sunscreens will often use minerals to create a physical barrier from the sun.
What hours should I keep my children out of the sun?
Current guidelines advise that babies aged less than six months should be kept out of direct sunlight completely, as their skin is just too delicate to cope. ‘Your baby’s skin contains less melanin, which helps protect against UV light. This means their skin will burn much more easily than an older child’s or adult’s,’ explains Dr Crawley. From six months onwards, your child’s time in direct sun should still be minimal, and she should stay in the shade from 11am to 3pm when the sun is strongest.
But what about getting that all-important Vitamin D?
‘Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, as it facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphate which contribute to bone growth,’ says Dr Crawley. ‘Babies need enough Vitamin D to ensure healthy bones and teeth, however, it is important to regulate the amount of sun babies are exposed to.’ Rather than risk sun damage, your tot can also get Vitamin D through her diet from a vitamin supplement or foods with added vitamin D such as cereal and yoghurt, or foods naturally rich in it like oily fish.
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