Gone are the bare-faced days when summer’s burn was the badge of a holiday well-spent. Red shoulders and peeling noses are signs of damage, and even sunburn as a child can contribute to a whole crop of issues later on – from premature ageing to wrinkles and even melanoma. And your infants’ sensitive, brand-new skin is especially vulnerable.
The NHS recommends keeping newborns under 6 months out of the sun completely, instead seeking shade and covering up with a wide-brimmed hat and cool clothes (look out for UV-protective garb). But when a second line of defence is needed, there are shelves of broad-spectrum sunscreen made for babies.
“Babies have extremely delicate skin which is more prone to damage from the sun than adult skin,” explains Dr Fiona Worsnop, consultant dermatologist at Stratum Clinics.
“Look for a minimum of SPF30; the higher the better. You should also look for an excellent protection against UVA; at least a 4 or 5 star rating.” The two important ratings are for UVB (burning) and UVA (ageing) rays.
She adds, “Protection against both is extremely important in reducing the risk of developing skin cancer and sun damage-related skin changes which accumulate over a lifetime. It is never too early to start looking after the skin!”
Other elements to consider are chemical or mineral (physical) sunscreens. While the former are more economical and easy to apply, thicker mineral sunblocks are the environmentally-friendly option, though they can leave a white residue on skin.
Dr Worsnop explains that, “mineral sunscreens are less irritating to the sensitive skin of infants and children. They act like a shield, deflecting the sun’s rays... compared to chemical sunscreen, which absorbs rather than deflects the UV.”
Regardless of which formula you favour, be sure to use lashings of it. “Sun cream should be applied generously and frequently,” she says. To make it easier, options abound: lotions, sprays, pumps, roll-ons and even mousses.
We’ve lathered glugs on our tiny testers to find the safest and most effective sunscreens available, considering ease of application, skin tolerance and stain risk. They all offer water-resistant, broad spectrum protection with a minimum SPF30. So pop a floppy hat on your tiny babe, grab a bottle of sunblock and head outdoors.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Green People organic children scent free sun cream SPF30,150ml
Summer’s eco-conscious choice is this 84 per cent organic, reef-safe mineral cream wrapped up in plant-based packaging. It’s part of the delicate Organic Children collection by British brand Green People, born as a result of the founder’s struggle to find gentle products for her daughter’s skin allergies and eczema, turning instead to her own organic creams and salves.
This fragrance-free formula for babies over six-months is both soothing and protecting. It combines broad-spectrum SPF30 with plant actives like avocado oil, rosemary extract, aloe vera and olive oil to protect skin from free radical damage. It’s nicely water repellent without clogging pores, so is mild enough for eczema and prickly heat sufferers, plus antioxidant-rich green tea and edelweiss extracts moisturise. While some mineral creams result in ghostly complexions, this beige-tinted alternative blends well and absorbs in a flash with no greasy or sticky leftovers – ideal for wriggly babies.
Buy now £21.00, Greenpeople.co.uk
Mustela very high protection sun lotion for baby and child, 200ml
French baby skincare experts Mustela have formulated this gentle sunscreen that’s safe enough for newborns. It’s dermatologically-tested and made for sensitive and allergic skin, using moisturising avocado extract to strengthen and protect the skin barrier. It also offers high SPF50+ protection from UVB/UVA rays.
It comes in a large fast-squirting spray bottle, which makes it a cinch to apply generously, though fiddly on the face. The liquid rubs in easily and absorbs fast, leaving only a slight greasy residue. This clingy stuff is also long-lasting: it’s rubbing, sweat and water resistant – after a dip, drops visibly bead on skin. It’s perfume-free, but emits a light floral scent, and sensitive skin is supple after application with zero irritation, while staying well protected.
Buy now £24.99, Todayslifestyle.co.uk
La Roche-Posay anthelios dermo-paediatrics baby lotion SPF 50+, 50ml
La Roche-Posay’s range of dermatologically-tested skin care products include a huge collection of sunscreens, many of which are tailored to babies and kids. Their hypoallergenic anthelios SPF50+ lotion for six-months+ has been developed for sensitive-skinned tots. It glides on velvety and cream-like, with naturally-derived shea butter and thermal spring water.
However, unlike a lotion, it requires a little more effort to apply, and can leave a white film on the skin if not rubbed in well. It’s hydrating without any stinging or greasiness, but stays water-resistant with high broad-spectrum protection, using a combination of chemical and mineral filters. The pump top is a plus, allowing greater control over the amount dispensed, but the compact 50ml container is rather small.
Buy now £12.00, Laroche-posay.co.uk
NIVEA SUN protect and moisture baby suncream lotion SPF 50+, 200ml
Skincare giant Nivea has a huge line of affordable baby and children-specific sunscreens, ranging from roll-ons to coloured spray. This lotion for little ones over 3-months offers immediate broad-spectrum SPF50+ protection, earning it lots of bonus points. It also moisturises and soothes irritations using dexpanthenol – a synthetic derivative of naturally-occuring pantothenic acid (vitamin B5).
With a creamy consistency and floral fragrance (despite being “unscented”), this mineral and chemical sunscreen mixture is super easy to apply, rubbing in effortlessly and drying with minimal greasiness. It’s also water-resistant and wonderfully stain-free on clothes – an easy and quick option for very little babes.
Buy now £5.99, Superdrug
Evy Technology sunscreen mousse SPF50 kids, 150ml
This is the fun kid on the block: a featherweight mousse with toddler-approved fizziness that lasts up to six hours from one application. Swedish company Evy Technology specialises in this hypoallergenic wonder foam. For all skin types from six-months onwards, this chemical sunscreen stays put when swimming, sweating or even towel drying – a busy parent’s dream. With an SPF50 and 5 star rating, this offers excellent, long-lasting protection.
It absorbs and dries lightning fast without any residue. However, the texture can be tricky, requiring extra attention to spread evenly, otherwise clumps of foam cling like bubble bath remnants. If not applied well, it can also tinge white tops yellow. Enriched with hydrating vitamin E and C, silk extracts and collagen, this odourless suncream also prevents and repairs skin damage, and can even protect hair from drying. It seems pricey for 150ml, but it’s super-concentrated, providing nearly double the applications as a conventional bottle, plus it’s airtight so effectively never goes off.
Buy now £25.00, Evy.uk.com
Badger baby SPF30 sunscreen, 87ml
This 98 per cent organic mineral sunblock goes back to basics, containing just seven comprehensible ingredients. It’s made by Badger, a small family-run company in the New Hampshire woods, who create organic and natural bodycare. Offering broad-spectrum SPF30 protection, it’s also paediatrician-approved, reef-friendly and water resistant for 40 minutes.
A base of organic sunflower oil is infused with moisturising chamomile oil, beeswax, Vitamin E, sea buckthorn extract and soothing calendula, creating a mild tea-like scent. As with many zinc oxide sunblocks, the texture is thick and balm-like, leaving a slightly greasy film and noticeable white cast after application. It takes longer to apply and rub in (and coincidentally to wash off), but protects simply and effectively while gently moisturising our small tester’s eczema-prone skin.
Buy now £18.99, Hollandandbarrett.com
Acorelle SPF50+ babies 3 months and up, 50ml
French natural skincare experts Acorelle have a collection of organic sunscreens using mineral filters. Their fragrance-free formula for babies over 3 months is hypoallergenic and reef-safe, while still offering very high natural and immediate SPF50+ protection from UVA and UVB rays.
It’s a thick, emollient-like cream so takes some patience to work into the skin’s surface, announcing its presence with a thin chalky film due to the titanium dioxide filter. It’s effectively water resistant, but can appear greasier on skin once wet. There’s a light floral aroma, likely due to some of its soothing active ingredients, like organic sesame seed oil, rose water and bisabolol (a calming chamomile extract). It comes in a teeny 50ml travel-sized container, but is worth the pennies due to its natural and safe mineral-based protection.
Buy now £19.99, Naturisimo.com
Childs Farm 50+ SPF roll-on sun lotion unfragranced, 70ml
British staple Childs Farm hit the kid-friendly bodycare scene a decade ago after the founder developed a range of products for her daughters’ sensitive skin. Each product – from oaty bubbles to strawberry shampoo – suits all skin tones and types (including dry and eczema-prone). So it’s no surprise their gentle roll-on sunscreen is dermatologist and paediatrician-approved as suitable for newborns.
Along with a super high broad-spectrum SPF50+ protection using chemical filters, it’s also hydrating due to a blend of emollients and aloe vera. True to its gentle nature, it’s free from artificial colours, parabens, SLSs and mineral oils. Initially it’s very liquidy and greasy, but absorbs in seconds. It’s a cinch to spread over the body, though tricky to apply on the face, requiring a fiddly finger application before rubbing in. There’s cream and spray available, but we love the water-resistant roll-on for ease of use – it glides on slick and quick, so there’s less mess with busy babies, and older tots can even do it themselves.
Buy now £7.99, Amazon.co.uk
Ultrasun mineral baby sun cream SPF50, 100ml
Sun-safe pioneers Ultrasun began their protective range three decades ago after the founder’s brother was diagnosed with skin cancer. Their sunscreens are made for all skin types, tones and ages by Swiss skincare experts. But this easy pump version is specifically for little ones under 36-months.
The water-resistant formula uses two hard-working mineral filters to provide a SPF50 and high UVA protection of over 95 per cent without emulsifiers, mineral oils, preservatives, silicones or perfume. It’s a dream for sensitive skin, packed full of natural antioxidants and vitamin E. The milky cream glides lightly and softly across skin with zero residue, absorbing so well you can hardly tell it’s there. If it’s not rubbed in well, however, it can leave a dusting of white behind.
It might be pricier than other sun creams, but this is one of the best we’ve tried for delicate skin. It’s effective, gentle and miles easier to apply than many mineral sunblocks.
Buy now £28.00, Jojomamanbebe.co.uk
Solait baby sun cream SPF50+, 200ml
Superdrug’s own brand of sunscreen is a steal at under £6 for a giant 200ml bottle. And it offers all the protection you need with SPF50+ and a five star UVA rating, using a mixture of chemical and mineral filters. Dermatologist and paediatrician-approved for babies’ delicate skin, it contains an antioxidant complex that combats free radicals to help improve skin’s sun tolerance, which is an added bonus.
It squeezes out thick, but rubs in seamlessly without any ghostly residue or greasy film. It’s water resistant, staying nicely in place after swimming, while washing off easily when needed. This formula is free from parabens and perfume, so is a great gentle option that leaves our little tester’s skin soft and protected.
Buy now £5.99, Superdrug.com
The verdict: Baby sunscreens
Green People’s organic children scent free sun cream glides sunnily into first place: it’s a cinch to apply, soothing on sensitive skin and is made using a reef-safe mineral filter.
After a more affordable all-rounder? Go for Nivea’s sun protect and moisture baby suncream lotion, which offers immediate moisturising protection from just 3 months at under a fiver. Evy Technology’s sunscreen mousse also deserves kudos due to its fun, foamy texture and super-durable formula.
To protect yourself as well as your little one from the sun, we’ve rounded up the best facial sunscreens for daily protection
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