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18 best sunscreens for kids to protect their sensitive skin

From fragrance-free to water-resistant SPF, these lotions and sprays will keep kids’ skin safe

Zoe Phillimore
Friday 24 May 2024 13:40 BST
To find the best sun creams for kids, we tested about 50 formulas over two hot spring and summer periods
To find the best sun creams for kids, we tested about 50 formulas over two hot spring and summer periods (The Independent)
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A good sunscreen for kids is a must – it’s so important to protect delicate skin from the sun’s powerful rays. When it comes to choosing the best sunscreen for kids, we’ve got you covered, with our top pick of products and all the advice you’ll need to keep kids safe in the sun.

The NHS advises that children should wear sunscreen of at least SPF30 every day from March until October in the UK. UV rays can penetrate through clouds, so it’s important to apply sunscreen even when it’s overcast. Sunscreen has an expiry date on the bottle, and most should only be used within 12 months of opening (to ensure they are still effective), so check if you’re due a restock.

SPF stands for sun protection factor, which is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection in a suncream. However, you should also check the UV rating of any sunscreen you’re thinking of buying. The UV rating measures the amount of protection against UVA rays – you want to see at least a four-star rating, but the gold standard is five stars.

You should apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your child goes out in the sun, to protect them from the get-go. You need to apply liberally – the British Skin Foundation suggests one teaspoon for the face, neck and shoulders, while whole bodies require five teaspoons. That’s a lot of rubbing in but it’s worth it.

Also, think about whether you want to opt for a mineral or chemical kids’ sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens have natural ingredients such as zinc oxide, which works by sitting on the skin and scattering the sunlight. These tend to be reef-safe, too. Meanwhile, chemical sunscreens work by sinking into the skin, so that, when UV rays permeate your skin, filters react with the rays, converting them into heat that’s released via the skin.

How we tested the best sunscreens for kids

Just some of the sunscreens we slathered on our kids
Just some of the sunscreens we slathered on our kids (Zoe Phillimore)

We tested about 50 formulas over two hot spring and summer periods, to find the best sunscreens for kids. We tested on babies, toddlers, kids, tweens and teens. Our testers were mainly concerned with how long the sunscreen took to apply, how it felt on their skin and what it smelled like. As parents, we wanted a sunscreen that offered peace of mind – high SPFs and broad-spectrum sunscreens were the order of the day. We were also interested in how easy they were to wash off – our testers took a shower or bath every day after applying the sunscreens. Our testers have sensitive skin, so we were keen to see how gentle the sunscreens were, too. While you can’t put a price on sun safety, we also considered value for money.

The best sunscreens for kids 2024 are:

  • Best sunscreen for kids overall – La Roche-Posay anthelios dermo-pediatrics invisible spray SPF 50+: £19.12, Lookfantastic.com
  • Best budget sunscreen for kids – Aldi Lacura sun SPF 50+ kids sensitive sun spray: £3.29, Aldi.co.uk
  • Best mineral sunscreen for kids – Suntribe kids and baby mineral SPF 30 sunscreen: £23.99, Suntribesunscreen.com
  • Best sunscreen for teens – Spots & Stripes sun squad sensitive skin SPF 30: £25, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best sunscreen for kids with sensitive skin – Organic Children sun cream SPF 30: £27, Greenpeople.co.uk

La Roche-Posay anthelios dermo-pediatrics invisible spray SPF 50+

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Sunscreen for kids overall
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Trusted skin-happy brand
    • Spreads easily
    • Great for sensitive skin
    • None greasy

We’re firm fans of La Roche-Posay’s anthelios sunscreen. Not only has it been formulated to spread easily across the skin in an even layer, but it also offers protection for those who are affected by sun intolerances. It’s a broad-spectrum sun cream, protecting from both UVB+ and UVA rays, and has been developed especially for kids’ sensitive skin. It’s also sweat-, water- and sand-resistant. Basically, this is a belts and braces sunscreen for kids, though, we actually found it’s great for the whole family.

The spray bottle makes it quick to use, dosing out a thin splodge that can then be rubbed in. We found it went on incredibly well, wasn’t greasy and sank in very quickly with no ghostly white faces. The sunscreen was tolerated well by all our children and their sensitive skin. We reapplied many times throughout the day, and a 200ml bottle lasted a good month across three children. It’s incredibly gentle on all skin, and we found it came off cleanly after a good dunk in the bath.

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Aldi Lacura sun SPF 50+ kids sensitive sun spray

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Budget sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Great price
    • Five-star rating on UVA and a high SPF rating
    • Feels like a more premium sunscreen
    • Sinks in quickly

With a five-star rating on UVA and a high SPF rating, this purse-friendly sunscreen offers a great degree of protection.

This sunscreen for kids reminded us of more premium sunscreens when it came to the applicator, consistency and smell. The scent is best described as “suncream”, but it’s subtle and wears off fairly quickly. It’s quite a milky consistency, which fires out of the bottle in a jet for you to then spread around. It rubs in well and it was easy to slick onto wriggling preschoolers. Once on, it wasn’t at all tacky on the skin, and it sank in rapidly. Perhaps because of this, we did find ourselves reapplying it a bit more often – especially after water play.

  1.  £3 from Aldi.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Sunly kids SPF 30 mineral sunscreen stick

Sunly-suncream-indybest
  • Best: Eco-friendly sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 60g
  • Applicator: Stick
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Plastic-free
    • Reef-friendly
    • Easy to apply
    • Great for on-the-go use
  • Take note
    • Slightly lower SPF

Our child tester really liked this sunscreen, as it’s small enough to put in their school bag, and they could apply it themselves without mess or leakages, as it comes in a solid stick form. It applied really well, leaving a ghostly white trail wherever the stick had been. It then rubbed in quickly and has no fragrance. It wasn’t at all sticky, and it washed off well. 

It’s SPF 30 and UVB and UVA protection here – you’ll need to be hot on reapplication. This is a mineral sunscreen, so it’s reef-safe, too. It also comes in a FSC-certified biodegradable cardboard tube, so there’s absolutely no plastic in the packaging. 

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Asda Protect Kids SPF 50+ spray sun lotion

Asda-sunscream-indybest
  • Best: For independent kids
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Great value
    • Easy-to-use trigger
    • Nice scent
  • Take note
    • Slightly sticky on the skin

Asda has knocked it out of the park with this budget-friendly sunscreen. It offers SPF 50+, carries a five-star UVA rating, and is UVB-tested.

Our kid testers liked the spray function, as even little hands can pull the trigger. However, we found it shot out more of a jet than a fine mist, which made for a slightly messy application. It rubs in quickly, though, and smells of that delicious holiday/sunscreen scent.

We liked that this sunscreen includes vitamin E, to help protect skin cells, but our testers reported it is quite sticky while on – skin felt clammy where it had been applied.

  1.  £4 from Asda.com
Prices may vary
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La Roche-Posay anthelios uvmune 400 dermo-paediatrics ultra light invisible fluid SPF 50+

La-roche-posay-suncream-indybest
  • Best: Facial sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 50ml
  • Applicator: Bottle
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Good for on-the-go use
    • Easy to apply
    • Non-greasy
    • Non-sticky
  • Take note
    • Pricey

We are loyal fans of the adult version of this facial SPF, so we were delighted when we happened upon the kids’ version. The bottle is teeny – about the size of a credit card – so you can slip it into your change bag or small handbag and take it with you on the go. The fluid is milky and lightweight, sinking into the skin quickly and not leaving a trace of tackiness.

This facial formula offers SPF 50+, UVA and UVB protection. It left no hint of white marks and lifted off well in the bath when using soap and warm water. It’s been formulated for children with sensitive skin, and we found it didn’t irritate at all. It’s also formulated to be used right around the eyes without stinging. We found it easy to get on our kids, and they didn’t whinge about wearing it once.

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E45 kids and baby SPF 50+ sensitive spray sun care

E45-suncream-spray-indybest
  • Best: For eczema-prone skin
  • Size: 180ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Lots of gentle ingredients
    • Soaks in well
    • High protection

This E45 kids’ sunscreen smells delicious – even though it says no added fragrance. It’s packed with ingredients to nourish and soothe skin prone to eczema, just like the traditional E45 cream we all know and love. The gentle formulation includes avocado oil to soothe and calm skin, and vitamin E as an antioxidant.

The sunscreen applies really easily, splurging out of the spray cap to create a milky liquid that we found sunk into the skin nicely and didn’t leave it feeling sticky. There is a gentle sheen where the sun cream has been applied, but we quite liked that, as we could see where it’s covered. It offers UVB and UVA protection as well as SPF 50+.

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Garnier Ambre Solaire SPF 50+ sensitive advanced kids anti-sand mist

Ambre-solaire-spray-indybest
  • Best: Aerosol spray sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: Aerosol spray
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • A doddle to apply
    • Lightweight
    • No white cast
    • High protection
  • Take note
    • Gets used up quickly

If only all sunscreens for kids were as easy to apply as this one. It comes out in a fine, cool mist and is super quick to apply and sink in. It leaves a shimmer on the skin, so you can see where you’ve been, without any white traces. Our kids enjoyed wearing this cream, and we found the protection good. It was used on a very hot day in full sun, and, with applications every two hours, not even a hint of a freckle emerged.

Formulated for sensitive skin, it’s non-tacky, and Garnier claims it’s anti-sand. Well played, Garnier. The only thing is it runs out quickly, so stock up.

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Suntribe kids and baby mineral SPF 30 sunscreen

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Mineral sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 100ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Cruelty-free
    • Rubs in surprisingly well
    • Didn’t stick to sand
    • Super moisturising
  • Take note
    • Takes some muscle to get the product out of the tube

This sunscreen is made from 100 per cent natural ingredients, using non-nano mineral UV filters. It’s reef-friendly and cruelty-free to boot.

Eco-credentials aside, however, getting the stuff out of the tube wasn’t easy – it’s thick and took some muscle to get it going. Despite this, we were still impressed with how well it spread across the skin, melting in and leaving no sticky residue. We found it didn’t attract sand, and it felt really rich on the skin – almost like a moisturiser, which is probably thanks to the coconut oil and cocoa butter. There’s also vitamin E in there, which locks in moisture.

The one thing we weren’t crazy about was the “vanilla” scent, which is bland yet definitely there – we didn’t think it needed this. It felt light and easy to wear, and we felt we’d actually done our kids’ skin some good.

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Garnier Ambre Solaire kids sensitive advanced SPF 50+ protection spray

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Kids’ sunscreen for staying power
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Protects against UVB, UVA and long UVA
    • No white residue
    • Hypoallergenic and water-proof
  • Take note
    • Splurges uneven dollops

We liked that this sunscreen didn’t come with a lid – instead, you twist the spray applicator open and close. This meant we weren’t constantly losing a lid in our bag, and our younger, peskier kids couldn’t spray it at will all around the house.

This broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against UVB, UVA and long UVA, which is what we need to protect our skin from year-round, as it’s ever-present and can cause pigmentation, photoaging and allergies. We found that, although the spray isn’t precise, splurging out uneven dollops, the cream was thin and easily spread across the skin, sinking in immediately.

We appreciated that it was fragrance-free and it doesn’t feel greasy. It is quite hard to spot where you’ve put cream already, so, you have to be extra vigilant with little kids when you’re applying. However, it doesn’t leave any white residue. This hypoallergenic sunscreen is resistant to water, salt, chlorine, sand and sweat. We found that, unless you’re really soaking the skin in warm soapy water, it ain’t going anywhere.

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Zinka total block coloured nosecoat

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Kids’ sunscreen for fun factor
  • Size: 17g
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Funky bottle
    • Mineral sunscreen
    • Reef-safe
    • Lovely smell
  • Take note
    • Works best for face only

Containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this qualifies as a mineral sunscreen, which reflects the sunlight. Zinka says these sunscreens are non-nano, so it should be reef-safe, too. The formula is thick and coloured, which not only makes it a lot of fun for kids to wear but is also visible on the skin, so you don’t miss any spots.

However, this is a small tube and you might not want your child completely covered in coloured sunscreen. It’s definitely best used on the nose and across the cheeks, as the name suggests. Obviously, this sunscreen was our kids’ favourite, thanks to it being super fun. It also smells of coconut, which we’re not against.

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Boots Soltan Kids once SPF 50+ suncare roll on

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For on-the-go use
  • Size: 50ml
  • Applicator: Roll-on
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Kid-friendly application
    • Beautifully light
    • Passed the sand test
    • Only needs applying once every eight hours

Boots has smashed it when it comes to easy application. This sunscreen for kids rolls on, like a deodorant, depositing a thin trail of suncream across the skin. You can then rub in the product, which sinks into the skin beautifully.

This is also a lightweight formula – in fact, it’s almost imperceptible once on. This meant it passed the sand test well, as nothing stuck to it. Compared with most other sunscreens for kids we tried, it’s probably the least sticky and thick. It is also lightly fragranced with an inoffensive suncream scent.

The main selling point, though, is it only needs to be applied once every eight hours, or every three hours, if kids are in the water. This gave us great peace of mind and didn’t have us scrambling after the kids every 30 minutes to reapply. Even if you don’t want to leave it eight hours between top-ups, it’s nice to know you have a bit of leeway.

However, this bottle is only 50ml, so it’s not going to last you the whole summer, even on one child. It is perfect for slipping into a change bag, though, so you are never caught out without sun protection.

  1.  £7 from Boots.com
Prices may vary
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Spots & Stripes sun squad sensitive skin SPF 30

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Sunscreen for teens
  • Size: 50ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes
  • Why we love it
    • Looks surprisingly chic
    • Leaves a dewy finish
    • Vegan-friendly
    • Kind on hormonal skin
    • Non-sticky

We’ve got to admit, we were pretty jealous over this sunscreen. In a metal tube with bright yellow branding, it comes out impressively easily and spreads onto skin with ease, too. It leaves behind a dewy finish, which makes all wearers look healthy and vibrant. However, it’s non-sticky and coped well with sand and fly-away hair. It is also vegan-friendly, fragrance-free and water-resistant.

Plus, this broad-spectrum sunscreen has been developed specifically for teens. It’s packed with ingredients such as aloe vera, jojoba and green tea, which are going to be kind to young yet hormonal skin. The active ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide, which is going to leave coral reefs safe while not blocking pores. A gen Z dream.

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Childs Farm water-resistant SPF 50+ sun screen

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Sunscreen for babies
  • Size: 125ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Gentle
    • A little goes a long way
    • Good water resistance
  • Take note
    • Did leave yellow stains on white clothes

Child’s Farm prides itself on creating products that are gentle on delicate young skin, and, unsurprisingly, that’s just what it’s done with its sunscreen. Although this cream comes in a relatively small tube, it’s very milky in consistency and a little goes a long way. Because it comes out white, it’s quite easy to see where you’ve applied and how far you’ve got to go, too.

It does take a while to sink in, and it remains quite sticky once on but it performed well at resisting water. However, we found it left yellow stains on white clothes that only sun bleaching could get out (the irony). However, it provides a very high level of broad-spectrum protection and is fragrance-free as well as vegan-friendly.

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Lancaster sun sensitive SPF 50+ water-resistant milky spray for kids

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For water sports
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Great for water-obsessed kids
    • Nice and even spray
    • Non-sticky
    • Protection against UVB, UVA, visible light and infrared

If your kids are in and out of the pool, and will not dry off long enough to slick on some sunscreen, this is the answer to your prayers. This milky sunscreen for kids can be applied to wet skin, and it still sinks in beautifully. The sunscreen is light and thin, and it sprays on properly in a broad range, rather than squirting out a thin jet. It rubs in beautifully, too. Once in, it’s completely undetectable – it doesn’t smell and it’s non-sticky, making it great for sandy beaches. It’s a broad-spectrum cream that protects against UVB, UVA, visible light and infrared. We also liked that this is an ocean-friendly formula.

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MooGoo natural sunscreen SPF 40

MooGoo natural sunscreen SPF 40
  • Best: Chemical-free sunscreen for kids
  • Size: 120g
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Packed with skin-loving ingredients

By far the thickest sunscreen we tried, this MooGoo mineral sunscreen feels like it isn’t going anywhere once applied. It’s made in Australia, so it has been put through stringent Aussie testing to ensure it offers the best protection. Although MooGoo says it rubs in clear, we could see a subtle sheen on the skin once applied – which we actually found handy, as we could see any missed spots.

This is a zinc oxide formula, with plenty of lovely ingredients, including coconut oil, jojoba, skin-soothing tropolone and a moisturiser. This sunscreen has clearly been made with a firmly no-chemicals ethos, and is designed for both kids and adults to use – a great mineral all-rounder.

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Avène very high protection lotion for children SPF 50

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For kids with fair skin
  • Size: 100ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Great for sensitive skin
    • Really good coverage
    • Lightweight

French skincare brand Avène has developed this sunscreen specifically for kids with fair and sensitive skin. It is made using Avene’s thermal spring water, which claims to have soothing and anti-irritating properties. Certainly, our kids’ sensitive skin tolerated this sunscreen well.

The broad-spectrum kids’ sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB short and long rays, so you’ve got really good coverage with this high SPF. It also doesn’t use chemical UV filters, is fragrance- and paraben-free, and contains vitamin E. The cream itself is much milkier than other mineral suncreams, and is very easy to rub in, leaving no white marks. It does leave some degree of stickiness on the skin but we were impressed with how lightweight it is for a mineral cream.

  1.  £16 from Boots.com
Prices may vary
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Ultrasun extreme SPF 50+

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Kids’ sunscreen for extreme conditions
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: pump
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Perfect for active kids
    • Packed with vitamins
    • Spreads and sinks in easily

Ultrasun has designed this sunscreen for extreme exposure. Perfect for those doing snowsports or watersports or if you’re headed to an equatorial destination. The sunscreen protects against UVA, UVB and infrared A, which can cause long-term damage and inflammation. The formula also contains vitamin E and B5, to nourish skin.

This sunscreen is amazingly lightweight, considering the degree of protection it offers. It spreads on easily and sinks in almost immediately, leaving no stickiness on the skin. Somehow, it’s both hardcore yet gentle – exactly what you want from a sunscreen for kids, right?

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Organic Children sun cream SPF 30

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For kids with sensitive skin
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No
  • Why we love it
    • Great for eczema sufferers
    • Lovely, gentle scent
    • Very easy to apply
    • Moisturising

This sunscreen for kids has been formulated with eczema-prone skin in mind. It’s super hydrating, with cocoa and shea butters to nourish and moisturise skin, and it also has green tea, aloe vera and myrrh oil, to help protect and soothe delicate skin. We liked the gentle almond scent – it’s probably our favourite scent of the sunscreens included in this round-up (although, it claims to be fragrance-free).

The ingredients are 73 per cent organic and 100 per cent vegan-friendly, and the protection offered from the sun’s rays is both against UVA and UVB, so it counts as a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Although we didn’t experience any prickly heat symptoms during testing, this cream is meant to help with that, too.

We liked that it was incredibly easy to apply. Although it comes out thickly, and it takes a moment to sink in, it does absorb nicely. It left skin feeling soft and moisturised but not tacky – a real win.

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Sunscreen for kids FAQs

What to look for in a kids’ sunscreen

There are a number of things to consider when looking for the best sunscreen for kids...

SPF: This denotes the sun protection factor and is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection in a suncream. It is important to ensure the product has an SPF of at least 30.

UV rating: The ultra violet rating measures the amount of protection against UVA rays – you want to see at least a four-star rating but ideally this would be five. UVA protection can also be indicated by the letters “UVA” in a circle, which indicates it meets the EU standard.

Mineral vs chemical: There are a couple of different types of sunscreens for kids – ones with mineral filters and ones with chemical filters. Mineral sunscreen, which is often also referred to as physical sunscreen, stays on the surface of the skin and deflects the sun’s harmful UV rays. Meanwhile, chemical sunscreen is absorbed into the skin and protects by inactivating UV rays via a chemical reaction. For the most part, there is not one type of sunscreen that is considered better than the other, it simply comes down to preference and what is comfortable for your skin.

How often to apply kids’ sunscreen

If you plan to be out in the sun long enough to risk burning, the NHS advises sunscreen needs to be applied twice before leaving the house: 30 minutes before going out and just before going out. Sunscreen should be applied to all areas of skin not protected by clothing, such as the face, ears, feet and backs of hands.

It’s important to reapply sunscreen liberally and frequently, including straight after you have been in water, even if you’re using a water-resistant formula, and after towel drying, sweating or in any other instance when the sunscreen may have been rubbed off. It’s also recommended to reapply sunscreen every two hours, to ensure it continues to be effective.

The NHS advises not to use sunscreen on babies under six months, as it’s not great for their very delicate skin. Instead, young babies should be kept out of direct sunlight between March and October.

The verdict: Sunscreen for kids

For the second year running, La Roche-Posay takes home the trophy. We found ourselves opting to use this sunscreen on ourselves rather than our usual sunscreen, too, which shows how easy it is to apply and wear. We’d highly recommend Ultrasun, too, if you want cast-iron protection. We also loved Sunly’s dedication to being waste-free.

Now the kids are protected, invest in one of these facial sunscreens that will give you daily protection, too

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