Be sun smart with our top picks for best sunscreens for babies and kids

I’m not sure about where you live but right now in sunny Southern California it’s blazing hot which is having us scrambling for summertime items before we’re ready. So yes, it’s time to dust off the sunscreen bottles and liberally apply the SPF to any exposed skin both on ourselves and our children before heading outside for the day. Now it’s part of our daily morning routine — brush teeth, brush hair and apply sunscreen. Even if you’re only planning on being in the sun for less than 15 minutes, it’s important to protect their fragile skin from both UVA and UVB-rays by applying a broad spectrum sunscreen. In fact, it really doesn’t matter the number of the SPF (sun protection factor) as you will need to reapply the sunscreen before the time expiration to avoid a serious burn. Imagine staying in the sun for 75 times longer than you would without sunscreen — really defeats the purpose of wearing it to altogether, doesn’t it?!

Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a comprehensive sunscreen report recommending and rating the top sunscreens in various categories. While the 2011 report is yet to be released, we tested their top sunscreen picks for 2010 combined with our picks for ones that not only work to protect rays but also are good for baby and kid-sensitive skin and can easily be rubbed in because that always seems to cause a problem. Not wanting to expose our kids to more chemicals than we need to, I mainly tested sunscreens that were mineral based containing zinc and/or titanium. While some studies show that using non-mineral based sunscreens are safe, the findings are inconsistent. The EWG rated the non-mineral-based sunscreens in the “caution-zone” as they provided considerable less to moderate UVA protection than the mineral sunscreens.

Our top pick: Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35, $15.00, available at This sunscreen not only has an extremely high approval rating by the EWG but it also is great for kids that are prone to sunscreen breakouts and have very sensitive skin. My son breaks out in hives with almost every sunscreen but this did not irritate his skin at all and also stayed put through 2 hours of swimming. We reapplied after the second hour and again, and because he was damp, I thought it might drip into or sting his eyes — not a chance. It has a slight sunscreen smell but not something that is offensive to those that are odor sensitive. It also rubs in very easily so there is no white film to worry about leaving behind making it a perfect choice for the entire family.


Episencial Sunny Sunscreen SPF 35

Best non-scented: Coola SPF 45 Non-Scented Mineral Baby Moisturizer, $34, available at Coola is a completely organic suncare line and utilizes natural ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil and organic sesame seed oil to keep the skin soft, moisturized and protected. This sunscreen is on the high-end but ultimately you get what you pay for. Since it’s non-scented, those with sensitive noses will appreciate that there’s nothing to smell as you liberally apply the sunscreen. While it didn’t rub in as easily as the Episencial, it didn’t leave a white film behind which the kids surely appreciated. It is also free of preservatives and was non-irritating to my family’s sensitive skin.

Coola Baby SPF 45 Unscented All Natural Mineral Sunblock

Best for babies under 6 months (with doctor approval): California Baby SPF 30+ Non-Scented Sunscreen, $17.99, at Keeping your baby out of the sun until they are at least six months old is pretty much an impossible task. At some point, they will be exposed to the sun. Keeping them protected with a little non-scented SPF is the best way to avoid their fragile skin from getting burned but make sure to check with your doctor first just in case your child is allergic or has other sensitivities. The California Baby sunscreen is the hardest to rub in and when you’re putting it on a newborn, you don’t want to rub hard anyways so there will be a little white left behind. Using it on my daughter, I put it to the water test and it lasted just as long as the other sunscreens in the water without wearing off — about 90 minutes. It’s also available in SPF 18 in a pump bottle which may be more convenient for everyday use depending on how much time you expect to spend in the sun.

California Baby SPF 30+ No Fragrance Sunscreen Lotion

Best drugstore sunscreen: Johnson & Johnson Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40, $9.99, at You don’t always have to pay a fortune to get a good sunscreen. Johnson & Johnson’s mineral based sunscreen provides perfect broad spectrum protection for both babies and kids for less than $10 a bottle. It’s also easier to find in your local big box stores than the other specialty brands. It rubs in like any lotion and uses the same “no tears” formula that they use in their shampoos to avoid the product stinging your child’s eyes. This is definitely a sunscreen to keep on hand or at least know of so when you’re in a pinch, can grab it off the shelf without worry.

Johnson & Johnson Baby Daily Sun Protection Face and Body Lotion SPF 40

Now that you have your favorite sunscreen, go play in the sun but for added protection see if you can get the kids to wear one of those adorable hats I keep seeing…!