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14 best sunscreen for kids to protect their sensitive skin

From fragrance-free to water-resistant formulas, these lotions and sprays will keep their skin safe

Zoe Phillimore
Wednesday 02 August 2023 13:17 BST
<p>Sunscreens ought to be applied 30 minutes before little one’s go out into the sun </p>

Sunscreens ought to be applied 30 minutes before little one’s go out into the sun

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As summer rolls around, and British weather gradually gets hotter, thoughts are quickly going to turn to sun protection. Whether you’re jetting away to sunnier climes, or enjoying a UK-based holiday, you’ll want to protect your children’s sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful rays.

The first thing to look for in a suncream for kids is ultra violet (UV) star ratings and the SPF. The UV 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. Then there’s the SPF which denotes the sun protection factor. This is a measure of the amount of ultraviolet B radiation (UVB) protection in a suncream.

You may already know that SPF 50+ is the strongest SPF on the market, but did you know the number on the SPF denotes how long you’re protected for? For example, if you regularly start to feel the effects of the sun’s rays after 10 minutes, you then multiply that time by the SPF number. So if you’re wearing a SPF50 you would, in theory, be protected for about eight hours. However, you should reapply most sunscreens after two hours.

While the NHS advises not to use sunscreen on babies under six months – and for them to be kept out of strong direct sunlight, particularly between March and October when the sun’s rays are most powerful – you should apply sunscreens 30 minutes before you or your child goes out in the sun. If applied too thinly, the protection will of course be less, but if putting sunscreen on a child is akin to wrestling an octopus (we know the struggle all too well), then go for a higher SPF.

As if that’s not enough information to absord already, there are also a few different types of suncream. Ones with mineral filters and ones with chemical filters. The former contain natural ingredients like zinc oxide which works by sitting on the skin and scattering the sunlight. Meanwhile the latter works by sinking in the skin and then when the UV rays permeate your skin, the filters react with the UV rays and convert them into heat that’s released via the skin. Ultimately, you need to choose which is best for you – and sometimes that can come down to the price...

How we tested

We tested around 20 sun creams to find the best ones for kids. Testing subjects included babies, toddlers and older children. What we were looking for was a sun-safe cream – one that offered peace of mind, even in direct strong sunlight. This was the key item on the agenda, followed by how easy they were to apply, how they sat on the skin – did they make skin feel sticky and greasy, or were they imperceptible? We also looked at how easy they were to wash off, and whether they irritated our more-sensitive children’s skin. These are the ones that really shone...

The best sunscreens for kids in 2024 are:

  • Best sunscreen for kids overall – La Roche-Posay anthelios dermo-pediatrics invisible spray SPF50+: £22.99, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best mineral sunscreen – Suntribe kids and baby mineral SPF30 sunscreen: £23.99, Suntribesunscreen.com
  • Best for teens – Spots & Stripes sun squad sensitive skin SPF30: £25, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for babies – Childs Farm water resistant SPF50+ sun screen: £10.55, Amazon.co.uk
  • Best for sensitive skin – Organic Children sun cream SPF 30: £25, Greenpeople.co.uk

La Roche-Posay anthelios dermo-pediatrics invisible spray SPF50+

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Sunscreen for kids overall
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No

Our family are 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 also to offer protection for those who are affected by sun intolerances. It’s a broad-spectrum suncream 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 suncream 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 – or sprayed into your hands to then smooth into the face. We found it went on incredibly well, wasn’t greasy and sank in very quickly with no ghostly white faces. This suncream 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.

  1. £22 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Suntribe kids and baby mineral SPF30 sunscreen

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Mineral sunscreen
  • Size: 100ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes

This sunscreen has 100 per cent natural ingredients, using non-nano mineral UV-filters. It’s reef friendly and Suntribe’s mineral sunscreen is also cruelty free. 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 though, we were still impressed with how well it spread across skin, melting in and leaving no sticky residue. We found it didn’t attract sand, and 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 too, which locks moisture into the skin.

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 like we’d actually done our kids’ skin some good.

  1. £15 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Garnier Ambre Solaire kids sensitive advanced SPF50+ protection spray

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For staying power
  • Size: 200ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No

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 on the windows, in their siblings’ eyes and so on.

This broad spectrum sunscreen protects against UVB, UVA and long UVA. Long UVA is what we need to protect our skin from year round, as it’s ever present and can cause pigmentation, photo aging 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 doesn’t look at all 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: For fun factor
  • Size: 17g
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes

Containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, this qualifies as a mineral sunscreen, which reflects the sunlight. We’ve researched it and Zinka says that these sunscreens are non-nano, so should be reef safe. It’s also thick, and is 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 suncream. It’s definitely best used on the nose and across the cheeks as the name suggests. Obviously this sunscreen was our kids’ faves thanks to it being super fun. It also smells of coconut, which we’re not anti to.

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Boots Soltan Kids once SPF50+ suncare roll on

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For on the go
  • Size: 50ml
  • Applicator: Roll on
  • Fragranced : Yes

Boots has smashed it here for easy application. This suncream rolls on, like a deodorant, and deposits a whisper-like thin trail of suncream across the skin. You can then rub it in, and it sinks in beautifully.

Soltan once is beautifully light – in fact, it’s almost imperceptible once on. This meant it passed the sand test well, as nothing stuck to it. Compared to most other sunscreens 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 you’re 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 thoguh for slipping into a change bag, so you are never caught out without sun protection.

  1. £6 from Boots.com
Prices may vary
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Spots & Stripes sun squad sensitive skin SPF30

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For teens
  • Size: 50ml
  • Applicator: Roll-on
  • Fragranced: Yes

We’ve got to admit, we were pretty jealous over this sunscreen. In a metal tube with unisex 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 and is vegan, 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 on young-yet-hormonal skin. While the active ingredients are non-nano zinc oxide, which is going to leave coral reefs safe while not blocking pores. A Gen Z dream.

  1. £25 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Childs Farm water resistant SPF50+ sun screen

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For babies
  • Size: 125ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No

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 sun cream. Although this cream comes in a relatively small tube, it’s very milky in consistency and a little goes a long way. But because it comes out white it’s quite easy to see where you’ve applied and how far you’ve got to go.

It does take a while to sink in, and remains quite sticky once on, but it performed well at resisting water, too. We also found it did leave 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 and vegan. While it is a chemical sunscreen, it also claims to be reef safe.

  1. £10 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Lancaster sun sensitive SPF50+ water-resistant milky spray for kids

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For watersports
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: Spray
  • Fragranced: No

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

  1. £19 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Badger baby SPF30 sunscreen

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For faces
  • Size: 87ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: Yes

Badger’s sunscreen is a reef-friendly mineral zinc oxide sunscreen, which many experts say is the most protective type of sunscreen. It’s also hypoallergenic and contains lots of lovely ingredients for babies’ sensitive skin including vitamin E and calendula. The former of which will help reduce inflammation damage caused by UV exposure while the latter can help with dermatitis, and is thought to help with skin repair. At SPF30 this doesn’t offer the highest level of protection of the sunscreens in our roundup, but it is still high.

We really liked the gentle camomile scent in the cream, but the cream comes out very thickly, and requires some effort to apply. It then takes a while to sink in, and definitely feels tacky on the skin which attracts sand to stick to it. It offers some water resistance but only for 40 minutes, which is going to mean a lot or laborious reapplication if your kid is a water baby. Our kids looked a little ghostly after putting it on, but we found it reassuring that we’d covered their bodies. We found this was a great cream for kids’ faces too, as it didn’t sting their eyes. And while the tube is only 87ml, a little went a long way.

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MooGoo natural sunscreen SPF30

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: Chemical-free sunscreen
  • Size: 120g
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No

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

This is a zinc oxide formula, with plenty of other lovely ingredients in it including coconut oil, Jojoba, skin-soothing tropolone and a moisturiser. We liked that on the listed ingredients the packaging explains why that ingredient is in there. 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 in our opinion.

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Avène very high protection lotion for children SPF50

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For fair skin types
  • Size: 100ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced : No

French skincare brand Avène have developed this sunscreen specifically for children 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 skins tolerated this suncream well.

The broad-spectrum cream protects against both UVA and UVB short and long rays, so you’ve got really good coverage here with a high SPF too. It also doesn’t use chemical UV filters and 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 was 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: For extreme conditions
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: pump
  • Fragranced: No

Ultrasun have designed this suncream for extreme exposure. Perfect for those doing snowsports, watersports and if you’re headed to an equatorial destination. It protects against UVA, UVB and Infrared A, the latter of which can cause long-term damage and inflammation. It also contains vitamin E and B5 to nourish skin.

UltraSun extreme is also 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?

  1. £16 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Organic Children sun cream SPF 30

best kids sunscreen boots La Roche-Posay uk
  • Best: For sensitive skin
  • Size: 150ml
  • Applicator: Tube
  • Fragranced: No

Green People have formulated this suncream 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 suncream scentwise on the roundup – 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. What we did like was that it was incredibly easy to apply; although it comes out thickly, and takes a moment to sink in, it does absorb nicely. It left the skin feeling soft and moisturised but not tacky – a real rarity with all the sunscreens we tested.

  1. £19 from Amazon.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Kids’ sunscreen FAQs

What to look for in a kids sunscreen

There are a number of things to look out for when choosing a sunscreen for your child.

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 that the product has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.

UV rating: The ultra violet (UV) 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 that it meets the EU standard.

Mineral vs chemical: There are a couple of different types of suncream, ones with mineral filters and 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 differs as it’s absorbed into the skin and protects by inactivating the UV rays through 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 that sunscreen needs to be applied twice: 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 it’s “water resistant”, and after towel drying, sweating or when it may have rubbed off. It’s also recommended to reapply sunscreen every two hours, as the sun can dry it off your skin.

The verdict: Kids' sunscreen

We love La Roche-Posay for total peace of mind. It has real staying power against sand, sweat and water and it is easy to apply. Once on it’s comfortable and lightweight to wear for both kids and adults. We recognise, though, that it’s one of the more-expensive products on the list. If you’re wanting something a little less expensive, then we really rated Soltan and SunTribe’s offerings.

Now that your little ones are protected, invest in one of these facial sunscreens that are non-greasy and will give you daily protection

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