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 when 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.
This sunscreen from Green People is a natural sun lotion suitable for children with sensitive skin, or those prone to prickly heat. Offering 97% UVB protection (the rays that cause burning) and high protection against UVA and UVB rays. It’s made from 78% organic ingredients including Aloe Vera, beeswax and avocado, sunflower and olive oil and it’s gentle on eczema and psoriasis. It’s thicker than some others, but it rubs in well.
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.
It’s small enough to fit in your baby bag and has a high enough protection to ease any worries that your little ones might be getting burnt. It’s been developed with extra sensitive skin in mind and is water resistant. It’s thick and creamy and a few mums reported on the sunscreen being good for eczema-prone babies.
Suitable for babies from three months, this protective sunscreen has an SPF protection of 50+ and a UVA protection of four stars. The sunscreen 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.
When your little ones are school age, it’s a good idea to send them to school with a sunscreen they can re-apply at lunchtime, to ensure they are protected throughout the day. Most little ones will find a roll-on easier to apply on their own and this SPF 50 stick from SunSense is easily absorbed, pediatrician-tested and extra water resistant.
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.
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.
When managing to apply a sun cream one big issue is its stickiness and residues. Thinking about these, Soltan Kids made the perfect product for you and your baby. This is a quick-drying sun care product that will keep the mess away from your baby.
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.
This is a product with a triple action working as sun cream, insect repellent, and moisturiser. It was launched in 2017 bringing a natural and organic formula. In addition, this sun care product is incredibly hydrating.
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.
This is another good product if your concern is long lasting, high-protection for sensitive skin. Evy claims that it's also recommended by dermatologists.
How should I apply baby sunscreen to my baby?
Put sunscreen on your youngster at least 15 minutes before she goes 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 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 an 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, they 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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