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Sunscreen Guide for Kids (updated for 2015)

Jul18

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Now that we know what to look for in a sunscreen, in terms of balancing protection versus health safety of the product, let’s talk about the products that are the best choice for your family. Over the past couple of months, I tested 15 sunscreens (much to the huge delight of my kids who just love it when I constantly rub sunscreen on them) and determined which ones I would recommend, based on safety of ingredients, performance and price. (For 2014, we tested an additional 15 sunscreens; for 2015 we tested an additional 12 sunscreens).

Please note that I only tested broad-spectrum sunscreens with an SPF factor greater than 30, containing zinc oxide, that have a #1 or #2 ranking from the Environmental Working Group (update: we have relooked at our list and checked against EWG’s 2015 ratings) and didn’t contain the controversial ingredient oxybenzone. (Just to remind you, zinc oxide and avobenzone are the only active ingredients in sunscreen that protect against UVA1 rays, however zinc oxide protects against UVA2 and UVB rays as well.) Also, personal preference is a big factor in finding a sunscreen that you like, so while all of the products did pretty much the same job protecting our skin from the sun, some we didn’t care for based on smell, ease of rubbing into the skin, or just the overall gloppiness of it. My kids are not big fans of gloppiness. (Update for 2014: at the request of readers we have reviewed some less-expensive drug store brands, especially ones with “better” EWG ratings so you will see some EWG ratings that are rated “3”. Please see below. Update for 2015: at the request of readers we have reviewed some additional brands that are well-ranked by EWG.)

All of these sunscreens are available for easy purchase online (hello, Amazon!) and we wouldn’t be surprised if we missed one or a few that we should have considered in our “testing phase.” Just let us know in the comments and I’ll be sure to try it out on my kids. (They’ll be super excited about that.)  Update + Additional Thoughts: these are our personal recommendations.  Please take care when trying new sunscreens out especially for protection/coverage.

Preferred & Top Sunscreens for Kids

That said, here are three broad-spectrum sunscreens that I would recommended, in order of preference (my #1 favorite is listed in the next paragraph): Badger Sport, Loving Naturals Sunscreen and Alba Botanica. All of these sunscreens are effective, safe and don’t contain harmful ingredients. My kids didn’t love the feeling of the Badger, but that was outweighed by its great protection and non-nano ingredients (here’s an explanation on why I look for “non-nano zinc oxide”). For 2014 we have two additional favorite sunscreens: All Terrain AquaSport Natural Sunscreen and Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen for Baby.  For 2015 we have two additional favorites: Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen and TruBaby Everyday Play.

Best-Rated Kids Sunscreen: Thinksport & Thinkbaby Sunscreen

Now, on to my top recommended sunscreen: ThinkSport. Everyone in my family immediately liked the light feel and “creamsicle” scent of this sunscreen and it was very effective in protecting our skin. Yes, it’s one of the pricier options (at $5.33 per oz), however, I don’t mind paying more for something that I feel good about using and my kids like. (Also, it’s worth noting, that unbeknownst to me, Isabel and her family chose ThinkBaby sunscreen (which is by the same company) as their favorite in a personal and non-structured test she did last summer.) (Update: some readers have shared that they are not crazy about the white residue this sunscreen leaves behind.  We personally don’t mind it, but wanted to share feedback.)

Reviewed Sunscreens for Kids at a Glance

For a more in-depth look at the 29 sunscreens I tested, here is my comprehensive review of each one.  We have grouped them into three categories: Favorite, Approved and Skip.

FAVORITES LIST

ThinkBaby/ThinkSport Sunscreen (TOP PICK)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
SPF Factor: 50+
Price: $15.99 for 3 oz. (full price, though on sale right now for $11)
Price per oz: $5.33
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: First sunscreen to pass Whole Foods’ Premium Care Requirements
Ease of rubbing into skin: Great.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Light feeling, goes on clear. Pleasant citrus scent. Very good results after being in sun. (Update: some readers have shared that a mild white residue is left behind.  We have seen that too, but it hasn’t bothered us much). Thinkbaby Sunscreen is the same formulation.
We’ve loved this sunscreen since we first reviewed it in 2012. 

Alba Botanica and other Best Sunscreens for KidsAlba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 14.5% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $10.83 for 4 oz.
Price per oz: $2.71
EWG Rating: 2
Company claims: Recommended by Skincancer.org
Ease of rubbing into skin: Fair.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No smell, not too thick, not too goopy. Good protection.

All Terrain Aquasport Sunscreen and other Best Sunscreens for KidsAll Terrain AquaSport Natural Sunscreen (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 16.0% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $17.91 for 6 oz.
Price per oz: $2.96
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Cruelty free, fragrance free, oxybenzone free, 80 minutes of water resistance.
Ease of rubbing into skin: Great. No whiteness.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No smell, not too thick, not too goopy. Very good protection.
Reviewed in 2014

Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 11%, Zinc Oxide 5.5%
SPF Factor: 35
Price: $8.64 for 2.7 fl. oz.
Price per oz: $4.20
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Enriched with green tea, aloe and water resistant for 80 minutes. “Free from the bad stuff!”
Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: Very hard to rub in, left a strong white appearance to skin.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Although this left a residue, we were very please by how long it lasted and offered protection when swimming.
Reviewed in 2015

Badger Sport and other Best Sunscreens for KidsBadger Sport Sunscreen (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 22.5% Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
SPF Factor: 35+
Price: $15.65 for 2.9 oz.
Price per oz: $5.40
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: “Extra” zinc oxide, very water resistant.
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not good. Also reappears on skin when you sweat.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Very thick. Kids hated the smell. Hard to rub in on squirmy kids. But good protection as well as peace of mind that it has the safest ingredients.

Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen for Baby (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 5% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 10%
SPF Factor: 30+
Price $18.39 for 8.75 fl. oz.
Price per oz: $2.10
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Broad spectrum, paraben and chemical free, bottle turns pink in UV light (yay?)
Ease of rubbing into skin: A smidge thick, but goes on nicely Blue Lizard and more Best Sunscreens for Kids
Personal Thoughts: No smell, goes on easily, no residue. Good choice for babies.
Water resistant: bottle says “use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating”
Note: We also tried Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen for Sensitive Skin. Same exact ingredients, but $.37 per ounce more expensive for some reason.
Reviewed in 2014

Loving Naturals Sunscreen (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 24.7% Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $12.99 for 2.5 oz.
Price per oz: $5.20
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Safe for babies, non-nano zinc oxide
Ease of rubbing into skin: Good.
Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Goes on clear and smoothly.  No smell.  Good protection.

Best-Rated Kids' Sunscreen: Trubaby Everyday PlayTruBaby Everyday Play (Favorite)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $13.99 for 2.0 fl. oz.
Price per oz: $7.00
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: All natural, gentle and lightly scented. Pediatrician and Dermatologist tested. Safe and gentle for whole family.
Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: It’s slightly thick, but not too bad. The whiteness must be rubbed away.
Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: We liked this one. It has a mild citrus scent, and went on well.
Reviewed in 2015

APPROVED LIST

Banana Boat Natural Reflect (Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: Titanium Dioxide 3.6%, Zinc Oxide 4%

SPF Factor: 50+
Price: $12.26 for 4.0 fl. oz.

Price per oz: $3.06

EWG Rating: 3
Company claims: Tear-Free, Sting-Free, 100% Naturally Sourced, Paraben and PABA Free, Mild as Water, Very water-resistant

Ease of rubbing in/whiteness: Rubs in very well, no white residue.

Water resistant: 80 minutes

Personal thoughts: I wish so much that this had a better rating from the EWG because we liked everything about this one. It went on easily, didn’t smell, and lasted well in the water.
Reviewed in 2015


Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Sunscreen Stick
(Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 11.4% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 4.9%
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $8.29 for .07 oz.
Price per oz: $11.84
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: 100% natural, no parabens, phthalates or petrochemicals
Ease of rubbing into skin: The tube shape is nice, but it goes on white and still needs to be rubbed in via fingers, especially around the nose and mouth.
Water resistant: doesn’t say. Instead website says “Reapply as needed or after swimming, perspiring or towel drying.”
Personal Thoughts: Since it still needs to be rubbed in, you’re better just getting a regular bottle. However, the size is great for the purse and very convenient in a pinch.
Reviewed in 2014

Burn Out Kids Physical Sunscreen (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 18.60% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $18.25 for 3.4 oz.
Price per oz: $5.37
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Rich in anti-oxidants and enriched with extracts of papaya, plankton and plantains.
Ease of rubbing into skin: Good.
Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Nice and light feeling. No scent. Protection was just okay.

Coola Baby (Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: 6.8% Zinc Oxide, 7.6% Titanium Dioxide

SPF Factor: 50
Price: $16.73 for 3.0 fl. oz.

Price per oz: $5.58

EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: 0% Synthetic ingredients, preservatives, chemical sunscreens. Soft and gentle. Helps prevent “heat build-up” in skin.

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: Fair. Leaves skin with a pale white, greasy appearance.

Water resistant: 80 minutes

Personal Thoughts: Unpleasant smell that the child hated. Offered decent protection, however made skin look shiny.

Reviewed in 2015


CoTZ Pure (Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: 8.4% Zinc Oxide, 4.1% Titanium Dioxide

SPF Factor: 30
Price: $16.73 for 3.0 fl. oz.

Price per oz: $5.58

EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: 0% Synthetic ingredients, preservatives, chemical sunscreens. Soft and gentle, water resistant for 40 minutes. Helps prevent “heat build-up” in skin.

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: This rubs in fairly well. No whiteness because the lotion itself is light brown, which could be a selling point.

Water resistance: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: This looks like a mud mask. The brown color is very odd, and it has a distinctive mineral/mud smell to it. However, it did give us decent protection for the hour we needed it.

Reviewed in 2015


Earth’s Best Mineral Sunscreen
(Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 14.5%, Titanium Dioxide 2.0%

SPF Factor: 30

Price: $7.04 for 4 oz.

Price per oz: $1.76

EWG Rating: 2
Company claims: All natural, water resistant 40 minutes, fragrance, tear and paraben free.

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: This is chunky and takes a lot of time to rub in. Left whiteness on skin.

Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: This had an odd consistency as it seemed to separate from itself when rubbing in and wasn’t uniform. It also has a very mineral smell. However, protection was still good.
Reviewed in 2015


Elemental Herbs Sunscreen Kids SPF 33
(Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: 22.5% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 33
Price: $13.99 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $4.66
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Certified Organic, GMO free, Gluten free, Vegan, Non-Nano
Ease of rubbing into skin: Goes on very thick, takes a few extra seconds to rub in.
Water resistant: website says “Use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating.”
Personal Thoughts: No smell, not too thick, not too goopy. Good protection. Expensive.

Goddess Garden Baby Natural Sunscreen (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $18.19 for 3.5 oz.
Price per oz: $5.20
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: 74% organic
Ease of rubbing into skin: Fair.
Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Goopy, leaves skin white, takes time to soak into skin. Not much smell.

Jersey Kids All Natural Sunscreen (Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: Non-nano Zinc Oxide 25%
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $19 for 2.0 fl. oz.
Price per oz: $8
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Baby safe, petrochemical free, broad spectrum protection, gluten and fragerance free, vegan, 97% UVA/UVB protection
Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: This rubbed in fine and didn’t leave much residue.
Water resistance: Unsure.
Personal thoughts: This one falls into the category of “fine.” Not great, but not bad, either. Availability and price may be prohibitive, however.
Reviewed in 2015

Neutral Skin and Hair Mineral Sunscreen (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 25% Zinc oxide
SPF Factor: 33
Price: $11.99 for 8 oz.
Price per oz: $1.50
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Non-nano particle size, paraben free, biodegradable and coral reef friendly
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not too bad, but feels slightly tacky afterwards
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No smell, possibly a little too thin and soupy, but offered good coverage.

Ocean Elements Sheer Daily Moisture (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 1.5% Zinc Oxide, 5% Titanium Dioxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $38.00 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $12.66
EWG Rating: Not yet reviewed
Company claims: Reduces damage from daily sun exposure while nourishing your skin with a host of natural moisturizers, marine ingredients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Ease of rubbing into skin: I really liked this one. Very light and invisible and moisturizing on my skin.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: This may be a better choice for adults as it’s very gentle on the skin and can be worn under make-up. However, we all liked the feel and results. Very expensive and only available online or in Maine.

Sunology Natural Sunscreen Body (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 10% Zinc Oxide, 7.5% Titanium Dioxide
SPF Factor: 50
Price: $14.99 for 2 oz.
Price per oz: $7.50
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Blocks the effects of free radical formation
Ease of rubbing into skin: Rubs in easily and is clear. Smells a little gross.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Despite the smell, we liked this one a lot. However, it is very expensive and 2 oz. doesn’t go a long way with a family of four.

Tropical Sands (Approved)

Primary Active Ingredient: 22.5% Zinc Oxide

SPF Factor: 50
Price: $19.95 for 5.4 fl. oz.

Price per oz: $3.69
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Broad spectrum, non-allergenic, gluten-free with green tea (?), eco-friendly, decreases the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun
Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: A little goopy, but not too bad. Not a lot of whiteness.
Water resistant: NO

Personal Thoughts: There’s a definite smell, which isn’t unpleasant, but may bother some. Despite the no water resistance, we still liked this one and would maybe use it when we’re not sweating or getting wet. (If that ever happens in the summer.) Don’t be put off by the label that looks like it was printed on someone’s inkjet.

True Natural Cosmetics All Natural Sunscreen (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 17.5% Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
SPF Factor: 40+
Price: $15.44 for 3 oz. (full retail price, on sale right now for $10.99)
Price per oz: $5.15
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Zero chemicals/zero harmful ingredients/immediately effective
Ease of rubbing into skin: Good.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Goes on clear and smoothly. Nice fruity smell that I liked, but the boys didn’t. Sticky and hard to wash off hands.

True All Natural Sunscreen (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 22.5% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 50
Price: $23.99 for 3.4 fl. oz.
Price per oz: $7.05
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Made in U.S., cruelty-free, gluten-free, paraben-free, synthetic fragrances and dyes-free. Non-toxic, biodegradable.
Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: This has a very nice feeling. Not very white appearance on skin.
Water resistant: NO; company says to “use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating”
Personal Thoughts: I really wish this were water resistant, because it has a very nice smell and feel to it. It worked fine for the hour we weren’t in the water, but then caused some pinkness to the skin after it got wet.
Reviewed in 2015

SKIP LIST

Aubrey Natural Sun Sunscreen (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 12% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $14.72 for 4 oz.
Price per oz: $3.68
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Good for sensitive skin.
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not good.
Personal Thoughts: Very goopy, hard to rub in. Did okay at sun protection.

Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 22.5% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $11.19 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $3.73
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: For extra sensitive skin
Ease of rubbing into skin: Very whitening and thick. Hard to wash off of hands after rubbing on.
Water resistant: no mention on product or website
Personal Thoughts: Didn’t love the feel of this at all. Protection was adequate.

Badger Sunscreen (Skip) (some Badger versions were voluntarily recalled on 9/25/13)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20.50% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $13.60 for 2.9 oz.
Price per oz: $4.69
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: At least 60% organic ingredients
Ease of rubbing into skin: Fair.
Water resistant: 40 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Thick, smelly. The boys hated the feeling of it. Separates if not squeezed before opening. Still, good protection.

Banana Boat Baby Sunscreen Lotion (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 3.1% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 4.0%
SPF Factor: 50
Price: $6.94 for 8 oz.
Price per oz: $.87
EWG Rating: 3
Company claims: Tear-free, sting-free, proven to be gentle
Ease of rubbing into skin: Goes on a little thick, takes a few extra seconds, which isn’t great with babies.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No smell, not too thick, not too goopy. Good protection. Concern here is with the poor UVA/UVB balance and poor EWG rating. Price is very cost effective.
Reviewed in 2014

Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 3.1% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 4.0%
SPF Factor: 50
Price: $9.99 for 8 oz.
Price per oz: $1.25
EWG Rating: 3
Company claims: Tear-free, sting-free, broad spectrum
Ease of rubbing into skin: Goes on a little thick, takes a few extra seconds, which isn’t great with kids
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No smell, not too thick, not too goopy. Good protection. Concern here is with the poor UVA/UVB balance and poor EWG rating. Price is very cost effective, but since this is the exact same ingredient list as Banana Boat Baby, why is it $.38 more an ounce?
Reviewed in 2014

Block Island Organics (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 10% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 7.0%
SPF Factor: 40
Price: $22.39 for 6 oz.
Price per oz: $3.73
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Ultra lightweight, non-comedogenic
Ease of rubbing into skin: This is like water. Super slippery and messy. Did not like it and it was messy.
Water resistant: Time not specified, but says “water resistant”
Personal Thoughts: This has a fairly unpleasant smell. That, plus the liquidity of it, made it a bad choice for us despite its okay protection.

Derma e Body (Skip)

Primary Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 16%

SPF Factor: 30

Price: $15.72 for 4 oz.

Price per oz: $3.93

EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Antioxident, natural, with clear zinc oxide. Broad Spectrum.

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: Good. Nice texture. Definitely a white residue, but not too bad.

Water resistant: NO.
Personal Thoughts: Again, why use this if it’s not water or sweat resistant? We experienced pinkness after using for two hours. It’s also very expensive for something that isn’t amazing.

Reviewed in 2015

eco Logical Skin Care Sunscreen (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide (non-nano)
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $10.68 for 1.8 oz.
Price per oz: $5.93
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Reef safe, biodegradable, no chemical UV absorbers
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not good.
Personal Thoughts: Horrible, shocking smell. We couldn’t get past it.

Elemental Herbs Sunstick (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Zinc Oxide (Non-nanoparticle)
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $7.99 for .06 oz.
Price per oz: $13.00
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Great for kids, goes on clear, coral reef safe
Ease of rubbing into skin: Goes on smoothly, smells like coconut, which might bother some
Water resistant: no mention
Personal Thoughts: I let my kids put this on their faces themselves (they’re 10 and 12) and they both had sunburns afterwards because they didn’t rub it in enough after applying.

Honest Sunscreen Lotion (yellow bottle– new formulation) (Skip)

Primary Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide 9.3%

SPF Factor: 30

Price: $13.44 for 3 oz.

Price per oz: $4.48

EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Non-nano zinc oxide, water resistant for 80 minutes, hypoallergenic, NO synthetic chemical sunscreens! Non-Whitening

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: Goopy, rubs in easily, but leaves a very shiny, greasy look.

Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Did NOT like this. We used it for 60 minutes at a water park, and my son had definite pinkness to his face.

Reviewed in 2015


Jason Pure Natural Sun Protection Sunscreen
 (Skip)

Primary Active Ingredient: 14.5% Zinc Oxide, 2.0% Titanium Dioxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $8.99 for 4 oz.
Price per oz: $2.25
EWG Rating: not listed (July, 2013: now rated 2)
Company claims: For very sensitive skin, no parabens or phthalates
Ease of rubbing into skin: Good.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: No scent, goes on easily. Boys turned slightly pink, so protection wasn’t as good as others.

Nine Naturals (Skip)

Primary Active Ingredient: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide

SPF Factor: 32
Price: $24.00 for 4.0 fl. oz.

Price per oz: $6.00

EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: “Simply 8 natural and organic ingredients. Safe for moms, babies, dads and kids!”

Ease of rubbing into skin/whiteness: Thick feeling, leaves a definite white appearance on skin.

Water resistant: NO. “Use a water resistant sunscreen if swimming or sweating” was written in small type on the back.

Personal Thoughts: This is a ridiculous sunscreen to use in the summer due to it being non-water resistant. We experienced pinkness for sure.
Reviewed in 2015


Purple Prairie Botanicals Sunstuff Sunscreen
 (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% micronized Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: not listed
Price: $18.29 for 5 oz.
Price per oz: $3.66
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: “Meets the rigid standards for sunscreen allowed in the protected coral reef lagoons of Mexico.”
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not great.
Water resistant: does not say but website says: “Reapply every hour and after sweating, swimming or towel drying.”
Personal Thoughts: Not too thick, no smell. Must be really rubbed in. Good choice if your kids are reef diving in Mexico?

Raw Elements Physical Eco Protection Sunscreen (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 23% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $18.99 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $6.33
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Very water resistant, blocks UVA1, UVA2 and UVB
Ease of rubbing into skin: Not great.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: Thick and smelly. Hard to wash off hands after applying.

Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby Faces (Skip)
Primary Active Ingredient: 2.9% Zinc Oxide, 5.1% Titanium Dioxide
SPF Factor: 45+
Price: $11.18 for 2.5 oz.
Price per oz: $4.47
EWG Rating: 3
Company claims: Tear-free, ultra gentle, 100% naturally sourced
Ease of rubbing into skin: We really like the feel and smell of this one.
Water resistant: 80 minutes
Personal Thoughts: As much as I want to love and use this one, there is concern regarding some of the ingredients. Namely, Phenoxyethanol, which scores a 4 on the EWG scale due to “allergies/immunotoxicity, irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), organ system toxicity (non-reproductive),” the highest I’ve seen in my reviewing.

Aveeno Baby Face Stick (Approved) (update: June 2015 no longer rated by EWG)
Primary Active Ingredient: 8.1% Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide 6.8%
SPF Factor: 50
Price: $10.49 for .05 oz.
Price per oz: $20.98
EWG Rating: 2
Company claims: Sweat and water resistant for 80 minutes
Ease of rubbing into skin: It’s okay for a face stick, but it still needs to be rubbed in with fingers after you put it on the face, so it’s like doing twice the work.
Personal Thoughts: Very expensive and the face stick thing feels like rubbing deodorant on yourself. Since it still needs to be rubbed in, you’re better just getting a regular bottle of sunscreen. However, the size is great for the purse and/or in a pinch. 

Jason Sunbrellas Natural Sun Care Sunscreen (Favorite) (update: June 2015 no longer available)

Primary Active Ingredient: 2.5% Zinc Oxide, 8% Titanium Dioxide
SPF Factor: 30+
Price: $12 for 4 oz. (we could only find a link to a case for 6)
Price per oz: $3
EWG Rating: 2
Company claims: Hypo-allergenic, ideal for sensitive skin
Ease of rubbing into skin: Fair.
Personal Thoughts: No scent, goes on easily. Kids stayed protected.

Hara Bodycare Sport Sunscreen (7/2013: no longer rated by EWG)

Primary Active Ingredient: 20.3% Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $6.99 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $2.33
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Contains only 7 all-natural ingredients
Ease of rubbing into skin: Good.
Personal Thoughts: Ingredients will separate, so if you don’t squeeze the tube before opening, you might get a handful of icky oil. Didn’t love this one.

Honest Sunscreen by The Honest Co. (blue bottle– older formulation no longer available August 2015) (Approved)
Primary Active Ingredient: 20% Non-nano Zinc Oxide
SPF Factor: 30
Price: $19.24 for 3 oz.
Price per oz: $6.41
EWG Rating: 1
Company claims: Free of PABA, gluten, parabens, phthalates, fragrances, petrochemicals
Ease of rubbing into skin: Non-whitening, easy to rub on, but feels greasy on skin
Personal Thoughts: Nice, if not a little greasy feeling. It should be noted that it claims only 40 minutes of water resistance while most other ones we tried claim 80 minutes. Also, VERY expensive.
Reviewed in 2014

 

(note: these above prices are based off of Amazon, and as such, vary. Check thoroughly for your best pricing options.)

So there you have it–our Sunscreen Guide for Kids & Families. I’m sure with all of these detailed choices, you’ll find a product that works great for you and your family. And remember—the best sun protection of all is to stay in the shade during peak hours and to wear a hat and protective clothing. Let’s keep our skin beautiful and our bodies healthy.

About the author

Wendi Aarons

http://wendiaarons.com
Wendi Aarons is an award-winning humor writer and blogger who lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two sons. You can usually find her at Wendi Aarons, The Mouthy Housewives or starting fistfights near the 70% off rack at Target.


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30 Responses to “Sunscreen Guide for Kids (updated for 2015)”

  1. tasterspoon Jul 18 at 3:40 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for doing this! Ever since my family’s favorite sunscreen (Kinesys) got only a mediocre score from EWG I’ve been at a loss.

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jul 18 at 3:56 pm Reply Reply

      Thanks, tasterspoon. That’s exactly why we did it. So many options, so much confusing information, etc. Figured if we broke things down a little systematically and then tested it out, it wouldn’t be so overwhelming. :)

  2. Kira Jul 18 at 10:26 pm Reply Reply

    I was disappointed that you didn’t try any of the traditional sunscreens. I haven’t heard of any of these before and I know my local Target doesn’t sell them. Amazon is nice but if I’m already at the beach and run out, I’d like to know what the best of the normal ones are.

    Was there a reason you left out the Coppertone, Aveeno, Neutrogena, and the like?

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jul 18 at 10:55 pm Reply Reply

      Yup. And, we could have done a better job at explaining that. So here it is. There were specific reasons those and others weren’t included:

      First we ran through all the sunscreens that received #1 or #2 ratings on the Environmental Working Group’s list. Then we looked at the individual sunscreen ingredients. Even if a sunscreen had a #1 or #2 rating it would be eliminated if its ingredients were of concern. To us the bottom line is that there are plenty of choices out there and to look for those sunscreens that are not only effective but have the safest (or least harmful) sunscreen ingredients.

      For example:

      Coopertone: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=Search+Here…&brand_id=768&ptype=All (even though some products had #2 ratings, wasn’t comfortable with the ratings of the individual ingredients)

      Aveeno: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=Search+Here…&brand_id=441&ptype=All (only the face stick had a #2 rating and we were reviewing overall sunscreens)

      Neutrogena: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=Search+Here…&brand_id=434&ptype=All (none of the sunscreens had #1 or #2 ratings)

      If you follow this link on the EWG website you can look at all the sunscreens in their database. Hope this helps. :)

  3. Lydia Jul 26 at 3:17 pm Reply Reply

    $3-$6 an ounce?! Yikes that will put you in the poor house pretty fast. An adult is supposed to use a shot glass full of sunscreen every two hours. That means a day at the beach could add up quick! Obviously kids don’t need that amount, but at $3 an applicaton you’d need a 2nd job to use these sunscreens all the time. This is why people opt for the ones available at Target. I’d think those are closer to spare change per application. Is there are reason the zinc oxide lotions are so pricey? Besides the yuppie marketing angle?

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Jul 26 at 6:13 pm Reply Reply

      Yup. I wanted folks to look at it on a price per ounce basis.

      I think that folks that read this site are smart enough to figure out the price vs. benefit for themselves. This post is a product of discussion between Wendi (the author) and myself whereby she was telling me that she was looking into the safety of sunscreen ingredients as she lives in Texas and was heading into summer. EWG has done a lot of that work, but even so she wanted to test out the effectiveness of those brands herself.

      As I mentioned to other commenters, you can find out more about the safety of the sunscreen ingredients of the brands that are indeed less expensive and found at drugstores. Just look here and search by brand: http://breakingnews.ewg.org/2012sunscreen/

      With respect to zinc oxide, I don’t know whether or not it is the reason for a product’s expensive. What we have learned is that it is the only single sunscreen ingredient that protects against ALL three UV rays: UVA1, UVA2 and UVB. See here: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb/understanding-uva-and-uvb (scroll a bit to get to the sunscreen ingredient list). You can get the same UV ray protection from a combination of Avobenzone and other ingredients (look at the list i link to above to see how to get full protection).

      I had never heard of the zinc oxide being a “yuppie marketing angle.” But if you have more on that, please link to it. I’m interested in reading it. Thanks.

  4. Dr BS Aug 01 at 4:32 pm Reply Reply

    On a recent week long beach trip we used nothing but Blue Lizard sensitive skin (EWG rating of 2).  My husband, 2 year old and I returned home just as pasty pale as we left!  That was with just 1-2 applications per day (about 3 hrs on the beach in the morning and 2-3 hrs in the afternoon).  There was no smell but it did go on a bit thick (like most zinc based sunscreens).  I think it’s typically pretty expensive but a family member brought a 2 gallon jug so we had plenty to go around.

  5. Karen Aug 02 at 4:12 pm Reply Reply

    Tagging Lydia and Kira’s comments, it would be nice to see someone, anyone!, do an evaluation of “what’s the best of the rest.” Perhaps Alphamom is making a decision to focus only on the top tier of products which is fine, but there are many families for whom the top tier of every possible product that will touch my kids’ skin or enter their bodies isn’t going to work, and it would be a bit refreshing to see someone care about that market too. Personally, I use the Aveeno faces stick you mentioned and the Coppertone Pure and Simple that is rated #2 (both available at all drugstores). They are both pretty zinc-y and look white-ish on the skin for a while until they absorb fully but they get the job done for about $1 an ounce. I use the Coopertone on myself but splurge on a nice one for my face.

  6. Melanie C. Jul 10 at 5:56 pm Reply Reply

    I noticed you have two Jason products included here, but not the “Kids Sunscreen” SPF 45: http://www.amazon.com/JASON-Natural-Cosmetics-Sunbrellas-Block/dp/B0017O5V6Q/ref=sr_1_4?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1405024006&sr=1-4 

    Any thoughts on this one? I recently bought it to try and love the consistency, smell (delicious smell, actually) and it’s worked well. Thanks for the list! I appreciate your research and opinion!

  7. fireflymom Jul 10 at 6:49 pm Reply Reply

    I am glad to see this list. I spent one miserable summer in my 20’s breaking out from a substance I could not define, even the doctor I saw brushed it off as “sun rash.” After a particularly miserable camping trip I put two and two together and realized I am allergic to oxybenzone. I am just resigned that we have to pay more for good protection and I definitely can’t put anything with oxybenzone on my kids as even my husband kissing me when he has a chapstick on with that stuff in it will give me swelled up fish lips.

    I recently discovered Babyganics sunscreen on Amazon, and then noticed it at Target recently as well. I see it did okay on the ratings list but I will have to give a few others on this list a try as well.

  8. Rebecca Jul 10 at 8:11 pm Reply Reply

    My family uses the Banana Boat Natural Reflect. It’s a good score and doesn’t break the bank for us.

  9. Fern O'Neal Jul 11 at 3:54 am Reply Reply

    Wondered about “California Baby” brand sunscreens, especially the super sensitive fragrance free SPF 30 one.

  10. Shellie Givens Jul 11 at 5:53 am Reply Reply

    I am curious as to what kept Ava Anderson Non Toxic non nanopartical sunscreen off your list?

  11. Lisa Jul 11 at 12:32 pm Reply Reply

    Hi! I just bought a new kids Badger sunscreen, and the tangerine and vanilla scent is so nice that it’s become my 6 year old sons favorite sunscreen! It still is thick and doesn’t rub in all the way, but we are ok with that as long as it works so well and smells so great! Thanks for the reviews!

  12. Natasha Jul 11 at 3:16 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks for all the research! I was wondering about the Thinksport Kids Natural Sunscreen SPF 50+. I didn’t see any mention of that one… Thoughts? 

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Kallman Jul 13 at 4:20 pm Reply Reply

      Thank you for the kind words, Natasha.

      We didn’t experiment with Thinksport Natural just regular Thinksport and Thinkbaby which when I last checked both had the same ingredients listed. I would compare the ingredient list of the Natural one vs the others. Overall, we’re big fans of Thinksport and Thinkbaby sunscreens. (Also, the Environmental Working group does not have the Natural version listed in their databas– but you can see from the website that the other two rate very highly :http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=Search+for+your+sunscreen…&brand_id=5412)

  13. Shifra Jul 13 at 12:24 pm Reply Reply

    Hi I was wondering about colorscience sunforgettable. A friend recommended it to me because my son hated regular sunscreen but needs to wear it when we are in sun because of meds he is on for his heart condition. Anyhow he loves this stuff now he doesn’t mind putting on sunscreen at all so we can enjoy outdoor activities again. But I’m wondering if it is a safe one. It is expensive but so far has lasted us nicely. Thanks
    Shifra

  14. Ana Colina Dec 22 at 4:30 pm Reply Reply

    I’m so glad to see this list :0) thank you for taking time to do all this research for us… I’been using different brands of sunscreen in the past years and I haven’t find the right one yet… My kids (6, 3 and 1 year old) get very very tan so easily they just need a few minutes in the sun and they look like carrots

  15. Lauren Jun 08 at 12:43 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks so much! We are off to Hawaii and for our 2 year old are thinking we will go with all terrain. Is there any reason why only aqua sport is mentioned and not kidsport? Both are low with ewg but maybe some other issues? Any feedback appreciated!

  16. Nicki Jun 13 at 10:06 am Reply Reply

    Hi- I was wondering what you thought about California baby brand? I’ve been using it on my now 3 year old for years, but I wondered how the ingredients info matched up to your ratings… I know you don’t get to test every brand, but just thought I’d ask. :)
    Thanks!!
    Nicki

  17. Kelly Jun 17 at 9:56 am Reply Reply

    Did you try any that did not leave the pearly white residue?  That’s my pet peeve :).  Thanks!

    • Isabel Kallman
      Isabel Kallman Jun 17 at 10:10 am Reply Reply

      We’re trying a bunch of new ones now. This year’s review is delayed since our writer, Wendi Aarons, is based in central Texas where it has been raising non-stop for the past 2 months. Please check back soon for an update.

  18. Tracy Hernandez Jul 09 at 3:25 pm Reply Reply

    If there is a citrus scent, I would be wary, because there may be citrus in the product, and this has been proven to be carcinogenic, even though many skincare products still contain it.

  19. Kim CS Jul 09 at 9:57 pm Reply Reply

    For other Canadian readers, check out L’Ombrelle sunscreens. They don’t contain the ingredients of concern but aren’t rated on the EWG as they aren’t available in the US. My kids don’t mind it, not too gloopy and it rubs in well. Also it’s available with Olaf on it which helps too.

  20. Kendra Jul 14 at 9:07 am Reply Reply

    Just to add my thoughts…my kids’ school is a completely tree nut free facility and it has driven me insane to try and find a healthy sunscreen that does not have any nut derived ingredients. This means no peanut (obviously), no Shea and even NO coconut. Most of the ones I have researched have either Shea or an ingredient based from coconut. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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