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Best Sunscreen for Kids and Families: A 2020 Guide

Current recommendations for the safest SPF

Ella Gonchar
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Published on: July 28, 2020

little smiling girl on the beach with her mom's hand swiping sunscreen down her nose

As the summer heats up and we approach the month of August, it is all the more important that we protect our precious skin. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its 2020 sunscreen guide. Here is a breakdown of what we need to pay attention to when it comes to how we are protecting our kids from the sun’s harmful rays.

Read the (very) fine print

The first thing to watch out for when browsing sunscreen options is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone has been on the EWG’s watchlist for the last few years, but with more studies coming out recently, it is clear that sunscreens using oxybenzone as an active ingredient can be dangerous. Oxybenzone has been proven to build up in the bloodstream and cause reproductive harm. Even with all of the information known about the dangers of oxybenzone, it is still used in the majority of sunscreens on the market, so it is imperative that we stay vigilant when scanning the ingredients list on the sunscreen bottle.

The EWG recommends the use of sunscreens with active ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Carla Burns, a research and database analyst at EWG, stated that these mineral-based active ingredients are best “because they are the only two ingredients the FDA recognized as safe or effective in their proposed draft rules.”

Higher isn't necessarily safer

SPF is also something to consider. A common misconception is to reach for the sunscreens with the highest SPF. However, the numbers plastered on the front of the bottle are actually quite misleading. The EWG found that higher SPF doesn’t necessarily translate to better protection. Higher SPF can actually overexpose users to UVA rays, which can cause skin issues such as skin cancer and sun spots in the long term. While you may be protected from the UVB rays that cause sunburns, the UVA rays are the bigger threat because they make up 95 percent of the UV light that gets to the Earth’s surface. It is important to use a sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays to keep your skin as healthy as it can be. The recommendation by the EWG is to not fall into the trap that sunscreen companies are laying out by presenting a false sense of comfort for customers purchasing high-SPF sunscreen.

More tips for savvy sun safety 

Buying the best sunscreen for your kids is vital as more information comes out regarding sun damage in early childhood. Burns notes that “sunburn during early life, especially childhood, is very dangerous and a risk factor for all skin cancers, but especially melanoma. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Just a few blistering sunburns early in life can double a person’s risk of developing melanoma later in life.”

Even on cloudy days when the sun doesn’t feel very strong, sunscreen is still a must. Don't be fooled by those overcast skies: The sun’s rays can penetrate the clouds. It may also come as a surprise to some parents, but the sun can still reach you through a window, so be sure that you and your kiddos are reapplying sunscreen throughout the day, no matter the weather or the setting.

While using the best sunscreen is key, it is also necessary to make sure your kids have the right gear. Clothes and hats are essential for sun protection, along with lip balm and sunglasses. Our lips and eyes are also at risk when it comes to the sun. Some clothes provide UV protection as well, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for labels. Lastly, staying in the shade when spending time outside is an effective way to avoid sunburns.

Here are the 16 best-scoring sunscreens marketed specifically for use on children (though they will work for adults, too):

  1. Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  2. All Good Kid’s Sunscreen Butter Stick, SPF 50+
  3. Badger Baby Active Sunscreen Cream, Chamomile & Calendula, SPF 30
  4. Erbaviva Organic Skincare Baby Sun Stick, Lavender Chamomile, SPF 30
  5. Just Skin Food Baby Beach Bum Sunscreen Stick, SPF 31
  6. Olita Kids Mineral Sunscreen Sunstick, SPF30
  7. Raw Elements Baby + Kids Sunscreen Lotion Tin, SPF 30
  8. Star Naturals Baby Natural Sunscreen Stick, SPF 25
  9. SunBioLogic Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30+
  10. Suntribe Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Vanilla Yum Yum, SPF 30
  11. Thinkbaby Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  12. Thinksport Kids Body & Face Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
  13. TruBaby Water & Play Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  14. TruKid Sunny Days Sport Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  15. UV Natural Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  16. Waxhead Sun Defense Baby Zinc Oxide Vitamin E + D Enriched Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 35

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