10 best sunscreens for babies that will protect their sensitive skin
We got our mini testers ready for months when the sun has more strength. Here's our pick of the protection
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We’re on the cusp of summer and the promise of sun. As a nation with unpredictable weather, we are getting a whole lot better when it comes to sun protection, especially when it comes to babies.
Infant skin is so much more sensitive than any adult’s. It is considerably thinner and less capable of making melanin, the natural defence mechanism against the sun’s rays.
In an ideal world very small babies – those under six months old – shouldn’t be in the sun at all, although on a practical level this can be a tough maxim to live by. This is also why brands are reluctant to claim that their products are suitable for newborn babies – lest they appear to be endorsing tiny infants being exposed to direct sunlight.
To minimise a baby’s exposure to sun, she or he should be well covered in light clothing, including a decent sun hat. But really, little ones do need to be coated in a protective layer of sun cream year around, even when the sun is barely getting a look in through the clouds.
The damage sunburn wreaks ranges from straight up pain but can extend to sunstroke which involves dehydration, vomiting and nausea. However, most seriously, just one case of serious sunburn can hugely increase a child’s risk of skin cancer in later life.
When choosing a sunscreen for your baby you should look for one which blocks both the UVA and UVB rays that damage our skin. The difference, basically speaking, is that UVA causes aging while UVB causes burning. However, both contribute to the development of skin cancer.
Manufacturers are finally beginning to cotton on to the nightmare parents can experience when they try to apply SPF to infants and are finding ways to make the process easier for all involved – without tears or excessive wriggling.
Some cheaper brands can tend to suffocate the skin, clogging the pores and resulting in a sweweleaty, hot experience. But not all, as we’ve discovered.
From the jaw-droppingly expensive to the far more affordable, here are the very best sun creams on the market to protect your baby.
Childs Farm roll on SPF50+, 70ml: £8, Childs Farm
Why didn’t anyone think of the roll-on sooner when it came to sun cream application? What we love about a roll on is how easy and quick it is to use, even on little ones who hate any faffing or are are absolutely desperate to get outside.
This lotion is neither thick nor thin, it spreads evenly and without much effort. It smells of nothing and once its absorbed it leaves no trace, which is basically perfect!
Gentle enough for use on newborns, Childs Farm suncare products contain no parabens, SLSs (sodium laureth sulfate) or artificial colours making this sun cream ideal for skin which is particularly sensitive or prone to dryness or eczema. If you don’t like a roll-on, there is also a cream and spray to choose from.
Ultrasun kids sunscreen SPF50+, 150ml: £30, Amazon
This is not cheap, granted, but it does boast even higher protection than a screen against UVA and UVB rays. How? It uses celligent – a natural ingredient that protects cells and DNA when the skin is exposed to the sun.
Water resistant, unperfumed and without any additives like mineral oils or preservatives this is a really clean, high-end sun cream that one can’t really fault. We loved the pump applicator which is so well designed that there will be no irritating spills or leaks. The team at Ultrasun recommends using the brand’s Extreme SPF50+ for newborns for extra peace of mind, but is clear that small babies should not be exposed to direct sunlight.
Solait Kids colour mix lotion SPF30, 100ml: £4.49, Superdrug
With advanced UVA and UVB protection, this is a pretty ingenious idea from Superdrug. The lotion contains a rainbow spectrum of little different coloured beads which makes the often labourious application process an exciting endeavour in its own right as the colours begin to streak and blur on the body. Paediatrician approved, the cream sinks in easily. The skin doesn’t feel clammy afterwards. If anything, it feels a little dry. We love the smell – which manages to be tropical without being overpowering. Suitable for babies of six months old and above.
Weleda edelweiss sunscreen lotion SPF50, 50ml: £13.95
With both UVA and UVB defences, this is really strong when it comes to protection and yet mild on skin. With organic edelweiss, virgin coconut oil and shea butter, this lotion is absolutely packed with goodness and includes no nasties. We really liked how a creamy layer was left on the skin. It offered a sense of reassurance that we had it all covered, literally. It withstood even abundant dips in the paddling pool. While Weleda is at pains to point out that newborn babies should not be in direct sunlight, the company states that in the unavoidable moments a baby is exposed, using their kids sunscreen is entirely suitable, especially given that it is fragrance free, with no skin stimulating essential oils. This is a brilliant price for a natural product.
Evy kids proderm sunscreen mousse SPF50, 150ml: £21.95, Amazon
Suitable for older babies – those beyond six months – this sunscreen is something of a revelation. That Evy is applied as a mousse makes it all the more enticing for little ones, which, as discussed is almost the entire battle. We found that getting older babies to squirt and apply the mousse was fun and playful rather than a chore they would try to literally wriggle out of. Despite being a mousse the absorbency was excellent – and didn’t leave the skin feeling clogged, gummy or like there was a layer on top of the skin.
Offering up to six hours’ protection against 98 percent of UV rays, the 150ml bottles actually provide almost double that once the contents are dispensed, so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Coola mineral baby sunscreen stick SPF50, 29g: £23, Space NK
We know you shouldn’t judge quality by packaging but we can’t help but be a little bit impressed by the chic design by Coola. The contents are just as impressive. Boasting a very high protection for babies over six months old, this is easily applied in a few fell swoops. It feels thick and substantial and yet sinks easily into the skin, leaving a lovely mild coconut smell. We know it’s on the pricey side, but aside from all of its skincare credentials it fits into a back pocket and creates absolutely no mess.
Nivea kids sun cream roll-on extra water resistant SPF50, 50ml: £4.50, Boots
Available in both green and pink, this very high factor roll-on for babies and children over six months old is rather brilliant. We had three two-year-olds who fought over the pink – so we can vouch for the colour part being a huge success. It really helped us as parents when it came to application, too, not just because the kids weren’t wriggling away from us, but also because it helps track where cream still needs to be before absorbing into transparency. The smell is pure summer, but if we had to be critical, perhaps a little too cloying for sensitive noses.
Clarins sun care milk for children 100% mineral screen UVA/UVB 50+, 150 ml: £22.06, Amazon
Firstly, this smells heavenly, as you might expect from luxury skincare brand such as Clarins. But this is about more than just a fine fragrance. Made entirely from minerals, this is a light lotion which spreads easily and absorbs quickly. A little bit goes a long way, so you won’t find the bottle half empty after a full day in the sun. Suitable for babies over six months old.
Mustela very high protection sun lotion SPF50+, 100ml: £13.56, Landy’s
Suitable from birth onwards, we found this cream to be fairly thick and ultra-moisturising and we like that it is fragrance-free. It promises not to stain clothes – how many white t-shirts have fallen victim to the curse of the excess suncream? – and we found this to be true, which says a lot about how gentle this cream really is. One white vest which got covered with this lotion came out of the wash as good as new.
Sainsbury's kids sun protect moisturising sun lotion very high 50+ SPF, 200ml: £4, Sainsbury’s
Super cheap, especially when you consider how vast this bottle is, this cream is a really good buy. This is nothing fancy; it boasts no bells nor whistles but it offers very high protection against both UVA and UVB rays. It spreads easily without leaving skin feeling clammy or greasy. You can slap it on liberally and frequently and at this price you won’t kick yourself if you leave it at the beach. For use on babies of six months and older.
The verdict: Sunscreen for babies
While Evy kids proderm sunscreen mousse certainly gets huge thumbs up for its innovation, in terms of value for money, we don’t think you can beat Childs Farm 50+ SPF roll-on. It’s inexpensive and yet organic, kind to skin and easy to use.
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