Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017

Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017

Last updated:Aug 7, 2017 @ 9:28 am. After testing of 23 sunscreen options available for babies and toddlers, as well as doing extensive research into sunscreen chemistry, we pick Coppertone Ultra Guard 50 as our top choice for the Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017.

Scroll down for our picks for Eco-Friendly Sunscreen, and Best Travel Sunscreen.
New to shopping for sunscreen? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying a Sunscreen for Baby for advice and tips.

In our opinion (we’ve been writing about babies and toddlers for 24 years), the best sunscreen is easy to put on a squirming baby or toddler, doesn’t smell overwhelming and performs the best in third-party tests. And it must be affordable—you’ll be reapplying this often to the sensitive skin of babies and toddlers.

Coppertone Ultra Guard checks off every box: it offers broad spectrum coverage (both UVA & UVB; see below for more info) with a SPF of 50 is available widely in stores and online, comes in large quantities (8 oz) and has very little smell.

In our tests, we think this sunscreen strikes the right balance for babies and toddlers: it doesn’t feel too heavy or sticky when applied and is water resistant for about 80 minutes. (We still recommend parents reapply sunscreen every one to two hours whether your child is in a pool or note.) The lack of scent is a major plus with babies or toddlers, who can be picky, as we all know!

Coppertone Ultra Guard runs about 94¢ per ounce online and at stores like Target and Walmart; slightly more in grocery stores. (We’ve seen it online for as little as 84¢ per ounce so shop around.) That puts it on the affordable end—suncreen ranges in price from 50¢ to $5 an ounce.

Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017 Coppertone Water Babies sunscreen

FYI: Coppertone makes a version of this suncreen under the WaterBabies brand—that works equally well. Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 is highly recommened.

What’s the best SPRAY sunscreen for babies? Answer: NONE.

We don’t recommend spray sunscreen for babies or toddlers. That’s because these are difficult to apply evenly. There has been little research done into the health effects on babies or toddlers of inhaling spray sunscreen fumes. To stay on the safe side, we suggest just using lotion.

Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017

Coppertone Ultra Guard 50
Coppertone’s Ultra Guard 50 ticks all the boxes we looked for in a sunscreen—top-scoring protection in third-party tests, easy to put on, no annoying scent and affordable at less than $1 per ounce. Plus it is widely available in stores and online.

 

Also Great: Pure Defense Kids Sunscreen lotion

Plastered with cartoon characters like the Avengers or Elsa from Frozen, it might be easy to dismiss Pure Defense Kids Sunscreen lotion as an unserious sunscreen option.

However, this sunscreen is actually quite good at what it needs to do—block UVA and UVB rays, according to third-party testing research we poured over. Plus it is affordable. And if Elsa will get your toddler more excited about putting on sunscreen, then so be it. Set aside your concerns about over- commercialization. Just let it go. (Sorry).

Pure Defense is fragrance-free (yes it has a bit of a smell, but not much) and SPF 50. It costs about 75¢ per ounce (very affordable), comes in an 8 oz. tube and is sold at Walmart and Target*. It is water resistant for up to 80 minutes.

*If you don’t have a Walmart or Target near you, you can find Pure Defense Kids Sunscreen on Amazon.com, but it is more expensive.

Best Budget Friendly Sunscreen for BabiesWalmart Equate Ultra Protection sunscreen

Here’s an unbelievably affordable alternative to those expensive sunscreens in drug stores. At a mere $7.48 for 8 oz., Walmart’s Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen will run you as little as 94¢ per oz. But this sunscreen delivers. In fact, it scored very high in Consumer Report’s more recent ratings for sunscreen–a 93 out of 100. It’s a broad spectrum, 50 SPF and water resistant up to 80 minutes. Walmart offers an even cheaper Equate sunscreen, the Sport at $4.98 for 8 oz or 62¢ per oz. It also is excellent.

CVS 50 Clear Zinc Sun LotionAnother option: a combination chemical and mineral sunscreen from CVS called 50 Clear Zinc Sun Lotion. At $7.29 for a 4 oz bottle ($1.82/oz.) it’s the most affordable sunscreen we found that includes zinc oxide (5%) as an active ingredient. It still has one of the chemical ingredients we discuss in the 7 Tips below (Octocrylene 4%), however. But this suncreen performed very well in lab tests. In our tests, this lotion has a stickier consistency and is a bit harder to put on.

FYI: if you’re looking for a zinc oxide or titanium dioxide only sunscreen, check out our eco pick below.

Best Eco-Friendly Sunscreen for Babies

Vanicream Sunscreen Lotion

What’s an eco-friendly sunscreen? Like other “natural” product categories that don’t include food, there isn’t one agreed upon definition.

Many makers of eco-friendly tout “mineral” or “physical” ingredients as superior to chemical based sunscreens like our Coppertone pick above. But when lab tested by third part sites like Consumer Reports or the Wirecutter, these sunscreens often fail to perform as well as chemical sunscreens.

Environmental sunscreen evaluators like the Environmental Working Group believe chemicals like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate are dangerous and shouldn’t be used for babies and toddlers. We consulted with pediatric skin care specialists and looked extensively on the scientific literature on this subject—in a nutshell, there is not evidence these chemicals are harmful.

However, we completely understand why parents would look for a kindler, gentler sunscreen that doesn’t sound like an evil chemistry experiment dreamed up by the Joker. So we extensively researched mineral sunscreens, those that utilize either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide or both as their active ingredients. (See our Top 7 Tips below for more on the differences between mineral and chemical sunscreens.)

Here’s the best bet: Vanicream Sunscreen Lotion is our pick as the Best Eco-Friendly Sunscreen for Babies. It is a blend of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Unfortunately, it is also very expensive: a whopping $3.20 to $3.60 per ounce depending on SPF. Yes, that’s three to five times the cost of regular sunscreen.

Here’s what we liked about Vanicream Sunscreen Lotion. It contains no dyes, lanolin, fragrance, or preservatives and is water resistant for 80 minutes.

So what’s the downside? Consumer Reports didn’t rate this sunscreen very highly, saying the SPF protection did not live up to its promise (at least with the 50+ tested). Vanicream Sunscreen lotion was judged “good” for UVA and “fair” for UVB protection. So this sunscreen will need to be applied more often than our top, non-eco-friendly pick.

Since there is some question about coverage, we recommend reapplying this and any mineral based sunscreen every hour.

Best Travel Sunscreen

Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion SunscreenNothing ruins a vacation than having to buy sunscreen at mini-bar prices. Our advice: buy it at home and bring it along with you in your carry-on. Yes, you are allowed a quart sized bag with liquid items that are 3.3 ounces or less. That includes your baby or toddler if you have purchased a separate ticket for them.

So here’s our pick for best 3 oz. liquid sunscreen to travel with: Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion Sunscreen and Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunscreen Lotion.

You can buy either at Target ($2.63 per oz.), Walmart ($2.66 per oz.) or Amazon.com ($2.37 per oz. with “subscribe and save”). Aveeno sunscreen has a light scent, absorbs well and both parents and Consumer Reports both rate it highly it. Aveeno makes a Baby version but if often runs quite a bit more than the regular version and doesn’t work any better.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing baby products since 1994. In addition to hands on testing, we have also scoured reams of research and interviewed dermatologists, pediatricians and physician’s assistant to provide background and insite. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Babies R Us and Amazon, as well as our own message boards. Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!

How we picked a winner

generic sunscreenWe evaluate sunscreen with in-depth inspections, checking them for overall ease of application, fragrance, absorption and more. We’re especially interested in how well different brands stay on in wet conditions and how well the sunscreens screen out UVA and UVB radiation.

We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking parents feedback. Besides interviewing parents, we also talk to pediatricians and dermatologist about infant skin needs and how sunscreens can help them.

To come up with our top sunscreen picks for babies and toddlers, we also poured over third-party testing research from sites like Wirecutter and Consumer Reports.

7 Things No One Tells You About . . .

7 Things No One Tells You About Buying Sunscreen !

1. Avoid using sunscreen when baby is under 6 months of age, as much as possible.

FlapHappy baby hat

A hat like this one from Flap Happy as well as sitting in the shade are effective non-sunscreen strategies for babies under 6 months.

Try to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm or use long sleeve, loose clothing and hats to avoid sun exposure. But if you can’t avoid exposing your infant to the sun, definitely use sunscreen. Babies under 6 months have a greater risk of skin irritation when using sunscreen, but the risk of skin cancer later in life outweighs potential irritation. Some specially formulated “baby” sunscreens claim to be milder—an example is the Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunscreen Lotion.

2. Broad spectrum is best.

You may have seen this term listed on sunscreens at the store, but what does it really mean? The type of solar radiation dermatologists worry about is UV radiation. But there are two types to be concerned about: UVA and UVB. UVA causes skin to lose elasticity leading to wrinkles and premature aging, UVB causes sunburn and both play significant roles in developing skin cancers later in life.

Broad spectrum sunscreens help block both UVA and UVB, so make sure your sunscreen calls this out on the label. (You can find more information on broad spectrum from the World Health Organization.) Our top suncreen pick,  Coppertone Ultra Guard 50, is a broad spectrum sunscreen.

3. SPF.

Yep, you’ve seen SPF on the bottle, but what does it really mean? SPF actually means that you can stay out in the sun X times longer than if you used nothing on your skin at all. So if you typically start to burn in 20 minutes with no sunscreen, once you put on sunscreen with an SPF of 50, you can theoretically stay out in the sun for a total of 10 hours. So the higher the number, the better the protection, right? Wrong! Dermatologists note the amount of improved protection in an SPF over 30 (say 45, 50 or 70) is negligible. Instead, dermatologists recommend parents use sunscreen of at least 30 and apply it more frequently.

Consumer Reports notes in their testing of sunscreen than many sunscreens offer less protection than promised on the label. This is one reason why we will constantly urge you to reapply sunscreen–if your brand isn’t up to snuff, reapplying frequently will offer more protection.

One caveat to our SPF rule: sometimes it is easier to find SPF 50 sunscreen at a lower price than SFP 30 (such as our top pick above). In general, we try to pick the best sunscreen (at least 30 SPF) at the most affordable price!

4. Reapply, reapply, reapply.

You’re going to get tired of hearing this!

No doubt you’ve noticed most sunscreens claim to be water resistant for between 40 and 80 minutes. So you figure you’ve got it covered for at least a few hours of brief interludes in the pool and more time spent on land. But the experts we’ve talked to all advise putting sunscreen on every one to two hours regardless of your activities.

Why? Easy answer: it rubs off, sweats off, washes off. So putting it on once a day is better than nothing, but putting it on every couple hours is a whole lot better. Stephen Alain Ko’a, of KindofStephen.com a cosmetic chemist and skincare expert, explains why:

“ The reason why reapplication is recommended is because we often don’t apply enough in the first place and it’s constantly being removed from our skin (by rubbing off, sweating, etc). Reapplication helps ensure that we have a minimum density of 2 milligrammes per square centimetre of sunscreen on our skin and that we maintain that density throughout the day.”

5. How much is enough?

Great question. In fact, most dermatologists note that people hardly ever put enough sunscreen on when they use it. Experts say you need 2 milligrams of sunscreen per square centimeter of skin. Nicki Zevola Benvenuti, a writer for FutureDerm.com, has a mathematician’s explanation for how much you really need to put on.

Bottom line: she says apply ¼ teaspoon of sunscreen to your face. For the rest of your body, you likely will need about an ounce. You can use a half a shot glass or a small measuring cup (see photo below;OXO 2 oz. measuring cup) to make sure you’re using enough. Unfortunately, the amount shown is for an adult, but if you use ¼ to ½ that amount, you should be good.

how much sunscreen

One ounce of sunscreen is recommended for adult bodies. This Oxo 2 oz. measuring cup can help you visualize it. Babies and toddlers can use 1/4 to 1/2 that amount (1 1/2  to 3 teaspoons).

6. Which type of sunscreen is better: chemical, mineral (physical) or a combination of the two.

Although it’s technically a misnomer, “mineral”  (AKA“physical”) sunscreens are those whose active ingredients are zinc oxide, titanium oxide or a combination of the two. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are “inorganic” compounds (no carbon atoms are involved in these compounds). “Chemical” sunscreens use one or more of these following compounds:

  • Octocrylene
  • Avobenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Octisalate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Homosalate
  • Mexoryl SX
  • Mexoryl XL
  • Tinosorb S
  • Tinosorb Mkocti

Finally, “combination” sunscreens use both mineral and chemical compounds to absorb/reflect UV radiation.

Bottom line: the science just isn’t there to claim that one type of sunscreen is better/safer than another—and it’s beyond the scope of this article to delve into the arguments for or against. We do recommend if you choose mineral sunscreens, select one with at least 5% zinc or titanium oxide.

What do other researchers say? Consumer Reports claims it hasn’t found a mineral-only sunscreen it can recommend, based on its lab tests. Above, we do recommend both a mineral and a combination option that our readers say works well—with the caveat that it may need to be re-applied more often than our chemical sunscreen pick.

Suffice it to say, most dermatologists and pediatricians will tell you the best sunscreen is the one you will use on a regular basis.

7. Keep baby undercover.

In the end, there is really only one way to keep your child’s skin safe from UV radiation: never leave the house. Since that’s not realistic, consider the second best way: cover him or her up. Clothing, particularly tightly woven clothing is a great way to protect baby’s skin without using sunscreens. You can try sun suits and swim suits that cover baby’s arms and legs (many are made especially for wearing in the sun with SPF ratings), then add a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses. Bonus: this looks very cute for pictures!

baby in swimsuit

 

Best Sunscreen for Babies 2017

Coppertone Ultra Guard 50
Coppertone’s Ultra Guard 50 ticks all the boxes we looked for in a sunscreen—top-scoring protection in third-party tests, easy to put on, no annoying scent and affordable at less than $1 per ounce. Plus it is widely available in stores and online.