An Esthetician & Mom's Guide to Sunscreens Safe for Kids

I would say the #1 question I get from clients and friends with kids is 'Which sunscreens are safe for my kids?' So I figured I would put together a little guide to help sifting through the dozens and dozens of sunscreens that are on the market. Unfortunately, the majority of sunscreens are not safe, for anyone, especially your kids. And if you need further evidence on why to avoid dangerous sunscreens you can just google their ingredients, or read this article.

Plan Ahead

My first tip when buying sunscreen, plan ahead! Don't wait until you're running out to the beach and realize you're all out and will need to swing by the drugstore on your way. Chances are, you're limiting your possibilities down to a minimum. The photo above and below are all sunscreens currently in our home. I am stocking up for summer and a tropical vacation we have coming up. And not one was purchased at my local drugstore. It's a bummer that the drugstores where everyone seems to go to buy their sunscreens sell the worst ones on the market. 

Read the Labels

I cannot emphasize reading your labels and seeing what the active ingredients are. I have made the mistake in the past of seeing the words zinc or titanium oxide and just chucking it in my cart without turning the bottle over and checking for active ingredients. Just because it has a few safe ingredients does not mean that there are not harmful ones as well. 


Familiarize yourself with the EWG website! It is a lifesaver when it comes to researching sunscreens. From the home page, you'll click 'Consumer Guides', then scroll down to the sunscreen guide and click that. A sunscreen search box will come up and you can input the sunscreen you're researching. The lower the 1-10 rating, the better the product. I try to use only green ratings, 1 or 2 for the kids. This website will rate each ingredient in the sunscreen and their toxicity. It is shocking that 95% of the sunscreens on the shelf at your local market or drugstore rate a 10, toxic and dangerous. And we are talking about sunscreens for babies and kids! Here's a quick link to the worst scoring sunscreens for kids. Yikes! Run!

Get Used to Reapplication

Not gonna lie, safe sunscreens do not last as long as those chemical laden products where you spray on kids and don't have to reapply for hours. Most sunscreens safe for kids (and really all of us) don't last longer than 80 or so minutes. They can be water resistant, but need reapplication after an hour or so in the water. My kids generally don't swim hard for longer than 80 minutes and are in and out of the water taking snack and drink breaks, so reapplication works great for us. Yes, that means more product you are using, but you're also not disrupting your kids hormones and making them susceptible to cancer and other terrible side effects that some sunscreens have on our bodies. 

In Our Cabinets

Finally, the good stuff! Now I will share some sunscreens we have recently purchased and those we keep going back to again and again. All of these receive a 1 or 2 on the EWG safety rating. 

Blue Lizard Sensitive SPF 30- We have used Blue Lizard for years, and are still big fans. My local drugstore used to carry this line, but no longer. I pick up a large bottle on Amazon(great price per ounce) regularly and it's perfect for an extended beach or pool vacation, just one bottle to pack. It got a 1 rating on EWG. Beware of other similar sunscreens by this brand however. I only use the one I have linked because there are a few other 'sport' or differently named products by Blue Lizard that get a 4 rating. 

Badger- This brand is another old faithful sunscreen, and their sticks are fabulous too. Almost every Badger sunscreen gets a low, safe rating of 1. I believe only one got rated a 2. 

Honest Company- Great sunscreens, and usually you can find a good value on them too. On Amazon they have a two pack of SPF 50 going for less than $11, which is a steal for a 1 rated sunscreen. If you are insistent on using a spray, this brand has one that is rated a 3, not the best, but I have yet to find a spray mineral based sunscreen with a lower rating than 3. All the "natural" sunscreens that are spray application like Coola, Kiss My Face, Bare, Alba, none rate lower than a 3. So it's as good as it gets.

ThinkBaby- This is a new sunscreen that we are trying, so far it's great. It got extremely high customer reviews on Amazon, it's competitive in price, SPF 50, and rated a 1. All of the Think sunscreen line rated a 1 so you don't have to be concerned about getting only one specific product by this line. 

Rubber Ducky- I discovered this brand a few years ago and still love it. My preference is the tinted spf which is a 50, versus the untinted spf 30. The con to the tinted is that it is rated a 2 versus the untinted which is a 1. Also, the tinted will stain your clothing, however, it is the only sunscreen my kids ask me to apply. They love the tint and the feel of it, and they love the lack of chalky/white leftover, especially if they are on their way out the door to school. 

So there you have my guide to kids sunscreens. I hope it was informative for you. I would LOVE to know your favorite sunscreen for kids, I am constantly trying new ones and adding ones we love to our list. Please share in the comments so we all can benefit!