Whether you’ve booked a getaway abroad this summer or you’re planning to stay at home on British beaches, wearing sunscreen is vital for everyone in the family.

Children’s skin is delicate and vulnerable to UVA and UVB rays, so it’s important to take extra care when protecting it. 

Sunscreen should always be applied 20 minutes before heading out into the sun to ensure it’s had time to sink in and start protecting before you head outdoors.

Hats and caps are a great idea to increase protection on delicate ears, faces and necks and a rash vest or sun suit will keep burn-prone zones like shoulders and thighs completely out of the sun. 

The time to get children in the shade is 11-3pm and try to encourage them to keep their eyes protected with a good pair of sunglasses.

We tested milks, creams, sprays, sticks and roll-ons and our criteria was strict: it had to rub in easily and leave no residue, be as nasties-free as possible, be suitable for sensitive skin and water fun and have a minimum sun protection factor of 30 (SPF).

Here are our favourite sunscreens to help your kid have fun in the sun safely.

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. 

Soltan Kids once 3hr protect & swim SPF 50+, 200ml: £10, Boots

Most parents will agree that making sure kids are lathered in sunscreen is without doubt the worst part of the holiday. Fighting to get every bit of their tender skin covered (not dissimilar we would imagine to wrestling a slimy octopus), only for it to wash off on the first dip is frustrating. This 3-hour cream for water fun really doesn’t need reapplying for a good solid 3-4 hours, making it perfect for water babies.

Buy now

Soltan Kids anti-sand protect SPF50+, 200ml: £5.20, Boots

Kids who fuss about the icky combination of sand and sunscreen will love this anti-sand sunscreen. It dries in 60 seconds, so as long as they can stay upright for one minute, they won’t pick up half the beach on their freshly sun-creamed body. The brand does recommend re-applying after swimming or towelling, but the anti-sand properties make this an ideal choice for fussy children.

Buy now

Child’s Farm 30SPF roll-on sun lotion, 70ml: £8, Child’s Farm 

Giving your kids the sunscreen to apply takes half the pain out of applying – but no parent in their right mind would give a small person a squeezy tube to cause chaos with. A roll-on however is easily managed and fun to apply. The whole line is suitable for sensitive or eczema-prone skin, it’s also water resistant, fragrance free, vegan and handy for their school bag too.

Buy now

Organic Children by Green People sun lotion SPF30, 150ml: £19, Green People

For the eco-conscious parent, you won’t find a more earth-friendly kids sunscreen. This lotion from Green People is 84 per cent organic, in fully recyclable, carbon neutral plant-based packaging, and 30p is donated to the Marine Conservation Society from every tube sold. It’s one of the few sunscreens that’s reef safe and non-toxic to marine life (National Geographic estimate that 14,000 tonnes of sun cream end up in our oceans each year).

This sunscreen is gentle enough to be used on skin suffering with psoriasis and eczema, it’s also perfect for sensitive skin prone to prickly heat. The non-greasy, soothing (thanks to aloe vera, edelweiss and beeswax), water-repellent, scent-free lotion is super easy to rub in – with no stickiness at all – and gently calms irritable skin.

Buy now

La Roche Posay anthelios SPF50+ shaka ultra-light, 50ml: £16.50, La Roche Posay

If your kids have sensitive eyes and spend most of their time in the sunshine complaining about stinging sun cream, then this could rescue your holiday. A small bottle that’s handy for keeping in your pocket, this facial sunscreen is non-perfumed, water and sweat resistant and most importantly, anti-eye stinging. Formulated for sensitive and sun-intolerant skin, the anthelios range also includes a brilliant dermo-kids aerosol in SPF50+ for the rest of their body. It deposits a really fine and even spray of slightly whiter than usual sunscreen to make sure you’ve got all their skin covered. Very high water resistancy too.

Buy now

Garnier Kids sensitive advanced SPF50, 200ml: £8, Superdrug

Developed for fair, sensitive and sun-intolerant skin, this hypoallergenic formula has no perfume, no parabens and no colourants. The light, non-sticky, non-whitening texture is a dream to use and remarkably easy to rub in despite the high SPF. Great value too for such a large family-size tube.

Buy now

Solait by Superdrug kids SPF30 wet skin sun lotion, 150ml: £6.49, Superdrug

Anyone with kids who are in and out of the water without enough time to dry off should buy this, as it can be applied to wet or dry skin. With a 5-star UVA rating and extra water resistancy, it’s the perfect choice for active kids who spend more time in the water than out of it. Good value in a generous size tube too – this should be enough for a couple of kids on a week-long holiday.

Buy now

Nivea Sun kids sensitive protect & care SPF50+, 200ml: £10, Boots

Encouraging your kids to do something as mundane as putting on sun cream is not easy when there’s a whole lot more fun to be getting on with at the pool or beach. We found this trigger spray bottle got the job done fairly swiftly after the obligatory sunscreen sibling shoot-out. Despite the high SPF it feels lightweight and is easily absorbed with no stickiness. A great choice for sensitive skin and it’s ultra-water resistant too.

Buy now

The verdict: Kids’ sunscreens

Soltan win for minimising beach meltdowns with the broadest range of options – our favourite being the good solid 3-hour water play lotion. The Nivea trigger spray and Child’s Farm roll-on make sunscreen application fun for the kids and Green People ticks all the eco-credential boxes.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.