a collage showing the best sunscreen for kids

Keeping your child’s delicate skin safe in the sun is paramount. So when you’re trying to pick the best sunscreen for kids, there are a few things you need to consider. 

Sun Protection Factor or SPF as we all know it is the first port of call when it comes to the best sun creams (opens in new tab). Meaning the level of defence against those shortwave UVB rays (that are responsible for sunburn) - it's important you look out for SPF (and a high one at that) on the back of your best sunscreen for face (opens in new tab) bottle. On top of this is the star rating system (or PA system in some cases), which shows the level of UVA protection. These are the longwave rays that cause wrinkles, liver spots and even lead to skin cancer. Ticking off both UVA and UVB ray protection is a sure-fire way to ensure broad-spectrum protection.

Whilst the effects of too much sun exposure are bad for both old and young skin, it's incredibly dangerous for small kids. "Babies and children have very sensitive skin and are more prone to sunburn (opens in new tab), which is by far the most common form of sun damage in children," Dr Sandra Gamper tells us, expert at Etre Vous and GP and Cosmetic Doctor at Miriderma. "Severe cases of sunburn, sometimes called heatstroke, sunstroke, or heat exhaustion (opens in new tab), can cause severe redness, blistering, pain, headaches, fever, nausea and dehydration. This can quickly develop into a medical emergency if not treated quickly." Avoid the experience with sensible sun exposure habits, protective UV clothing and of course, our tried and tested selection of the best sunscreen for kids.  

What to consider when looking for the best sunscreen for kids

  • Star rating: Our in-house star-rating system is based on peer reviews. They’ve tried and tested the selected sun screens and awarded stars based on factors such as protection, duct quality, ease of use, customer feedback, awards and value for money. Products that have received a 5 star status are rare and considered exceptional, going above and beyond our reviewer’s expectations.
  • UVA protection: We’ve selected sunscreens that offer both UVA and UVB protection. The star rating system, ranging from 1 to 5, indicates the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. 3 stars is common in formulas developed specifically for those with eczema-prone skin. You can also look at the bottle to see if the UVA symbol is circled, which means the product contains at least the minimum UVA protection recommended by the European Commission. Some bottles don’t use the star rating system and instead use the letters ‘PA’ followed by plus signs, a rating system developed in Japan. 
  • Suncream type: There are two types of sunscreen: mineral and chemical (some sunscreens use a combination of both types of filters). Mineral sunscreens contain ingredients such as Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide that create a physical barrier to the sun’s rays. Chemical sunscreens tend to be thinner and less sticky, but some of the active ingredients can irritate sensitive skin. Mineral sunscreens tend to suit sensitive skin types but these formulas can feel heavy and greasy, which may be off putting to children. We’ve included mostly chemical sunscreens for their quick-absorbing, lightweight formulas that are family- and beach-friendly. 
  • SPF: Because children’s skin is more vulnerable to sun damage, it’s important to pick the highest level of sun protection. For this reason, we have only included sunscreens with SPF50 in our round-up of the best sunscreen for kids.
  • Water resistant: No sun cream is completely waterproof, but there are water-resistant formulas that are great for active kids and times when they’re jumping in and out of the pool. Officially, pool-friendly formulas are tested to provide the SPF quoted on the bottle after 40 minutes underwater. We’ve specifically chosen sunscreens that are all water resistant.

The best sunscreen for kids:

1. Nivea Sun Kids Swim & Play SPF50+ Lotion

Best sunscreen overall

Best sunscreen for kids: Nivea Sun Kids Swim & Play SPF50+ Lotion

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Great price ✅ Helps support the skin barrier ✅ Sand-resistant ✅ Quick to absorb❌ Sticky if over-applied  

This highly water-resistant cream is fantastic value, and a great option if your child is constantly in and out of the water. It gives brilliant broad-spectrum protection in a quick-to-absorb formula that happens to be sand-resistant. Perfect for those beach-bound days.

Expert verdict: "Nivea Sun Kids Swim & Play SPF50+ is a great choice for children that you struggle to get out of the water and away from the harmful rays of the sun, with a formula that’s not only enhanced for long-lasting water resistance, but also includes the ingredient Dexpanthenol, which helps protect the skin barrier," says Guilia Gurrieni, the lead pharmacist at digital pharmacy www.medino.com (opens in new tab). !Its UVA and UVB filters also help protect against sunburn, long-term skin damage and reduce the risk of UV-induced allergies."

2. Childs Farm Sun Cream

Best sunscreen for eczema-prone skin

Childs Farm Water Resistant Sun Screen 50+ SPF

Credit: Childs Farm

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Hydrating formula ✅ Suitable for babies ✅ Paediatrician approved❌ Takes slightly longer to soak in

This deeply moisturising formula is great for children with eczema (opens in new tab) and other dry skin conditions. An independent trial (based on a consumer user trial with 100 participants after fourteen days use) found that 89% of parents would recommend the product to other parents of young children. Plus, a reassuring 98% found it didn’t cause irritation to their child’s skin.

Expert verdict: "Childs Farm's suncream is ideal for children because they are rigorous about their protection claims," explains Dr Jennifer Crawley (opens in new tab), Leading Consultant Dermatologist based in Harley Street. "The sunscreen is particularly gentle on sensitive young skin. When the purpose is sun protection, it's easy to forget about sensitivity, eczema and other conditions, but the reality for many parents is more complicated than that. Childs Farm really does offer all the different types of protection a parent could want for their child."

3. Garnier Ambre Solaire Sensitive Advanced SPF50+

Best sunscreen for sensitivity

Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Sensitive Advanced SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Netlock TechnologyTM  makes this water-, sweat- and sand-resistant ✅ Hypoallergenic for sensitive skin ✅ Bottle is made from recycled and recyclable plastic❌ Pump can be hard to press when slippery

Fantastic for kids that experience a heat rash (opens in new tab) or two. This hypoallergenic formula soothes, moisturises and protects. It even helps to prevent the dryness associated with salt water and chlorinated pools. Because it’s a pump bottle, it’s easy to apply. But the top can become a little hard to compress when you have sunscreen on your hands.

Expert verdict: "Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Sensitive Advanced SPF50+ is hypoallergenic, has no perfume and no colourants, making it ideal for children with sensitive skin," pharmacist Guilia Gurrieni tells us. "The high SPF is also a bonus, alongside the fact that it protects against UVB, UVA and long UVA rays."

4. Sunsense Kids Very High Sun Protection Lotion SPF50+

Best sunscreen for dry skin

Sunsense Kids Very High Sun Protection Lotion SPF50+

Credit: Amazon

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Contains moisturising vitamin B3 ✅ Absorbs easily ✅ Fragrance-free❌ Smaller bottle than others on our list

As this sunscreen is made and tested in Australia (a country where SPF rules are incredibly regulated and stricter than the UK/EU) parents can enjoy peace of mind that this lotion will protect young skin effectively. To meet the Australian standard, a sunscreen must filter out more than 90% of UVA radiation. All products in the SunSense range filter out between 95% to 99% of UVA radiation. Thus making them some of the most protective sunscreens that you can buy. This one feels lovely and hydrating, without being sticky. Plus it provides up to 80 minutes water-resistance.

Expert verdict: "SunSense Kids SPF50+ is formulated specifically for the delicate skin of children aged 6 months plus," says Ian Harrison BSc (Hons), PhD, the Scientific Communication and Clinical Trials Manager at Ego Pharmaceuticals (opens in new tab). "It is both paediatrician tested and its SPF of 50+ complies with the AS/NZS 2604:2012 Standard - which is the most rigorous sunscreen testing standard in the world."

5. Soltan Kids Once 3hr Protect & Swim Suncare Lotion SPF50+

Best sunscreen for swimming

Soltan Kids Once 3hr Protect & Swim Suncare Lotion SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Up to 3 hours of water resistance ✅ Hypoallergenic ✅ Great value for the size❌ Slightly thicker consistency that takes longer to rub in

For parents who cannot get their children away from the waves. Try this highly water-resistant lotion that claims to protect delicate skin for 3 hours in the water, with a creamy, hypoallergenic formula that is kind to skin. 

Expert verdict: "Another great option for parents with children who love to spend their time in the water is the Soltan Kids Once 3hr Protect & Swim Suncare Lotion SPF50+," says pharmacist Guilia Gurrieni. "As it says in the name, it’s designed for protection while in the water, with up to 8 hours sun protection. Including 3 hours water resistance from just one application. However, it’s important to ensure that the lotion is re-applied regularly to make sure they’re protected all day long."

6. Ultrasun Kids Very High Sun Protection SPF50+

Best sunscreen for enhanced protection

Ultrasun Kids Very High Sun Protection SPF50+

Credit: John Lewis

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Hybrid (chemical and mineral) | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Prevents sun allergies ✅ Fast-absorbing ✅ Invisible feel ✅ DNA protection❌ Pricier than others on our list

Ultrasun is a brand revered for its quick-to-absorb, non-greasy, weightless-feel sunscreens. And they just so happen to also make the best sunscreen for kids. This formula is enriched with antioxidants and a special ingredient called Celligent®, which protects against cell and DNA damage. This keeps extra-sensitive skin healthy, well-protected and safe in the sun. But just a note, it’s not suitable for under 3s.

Expert verdict: "Ultrasun products help to prevent sun allergies such as prickly heat making them especially suitable for children and those with very sensitive skin," says Abi Cleeve (opens in new tab), skin expert and MD of Ultrasun. "Additional ingredients such as Celligent are also helpful for children as they’ve not yet built up natural defences against the sun’s rays. This is found in the Ultrasun Kids SPF50 formula. Celligent® offers enhanced protection because as an ingredient, it delivers additional cell and DNA protection. In studies, the ingredient has been shown to aid more rapid regeneration of UV related cell and DNA damage."

7. Nivea Kids Protect & Care Coloured Roll-On SPF50+

Best sunscreen for kids who hate lotion

best sunscreen for kids - Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Care Coloured Roll-On SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅Handbag/school bag-friendly ✅ Tinted cream shows spots you’ve missed ✅ Roll-on format is mess-free❌ Goes on quite thin so requires a few goings-over

Make sun protection as fun as can be for children that hate standing still with this coloured roll-on. It’s the perfect size to pop into a bag. Plus the coloured formula (which comes in green or pink) makes it easy to see where you’ve applied.

Expert verdict: "The Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Care Coloured Roll-On SPF50+ is also a great option for children," pharmacist Guilia Gurrieni tells us. "Being extra water-resistant is a huge plus, because if kids are jumping in and out of water on a warm day it just means parents don’t need to worry about reapplying every single time."

8. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dermo-Kids SPF50

Best sunscreen for speedy application

best sunscreen for kids - La Roche-Posay Anthelios Dermo Kids Spray SPF50+ Invisible Spray

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Intellimer technology creates an even, well-covered layer of protection ✅ Non-greasy ✅ Fragrance-free❌ Can leave a tacky feel if over-applied

Sand, sweat and water-resistant, this invisible spray does it all, cementing its place in our list of the best sunscreen for kids. It’s formulated with sensitive skin in mind so won’t cause any irritation and rubs in effortlessly. Just be sure to apply enough to get adequate protection.

Expert verdict: "The La Roche-Posay Anthelios range is designed for people with sensitive skin," explains Consultant Dermatologist, Dr Hiva Fassihi (opens in new tab). "None of the products have fragrance in them and they have minimal ingredients in them. Particularly for children, I look for well recognised brands that are designed for sensitive skin."

9. Soltan Kids Suncare Stick SPF50+ 25g

Best sunscreen for the face

Soltan Kids Suncare Stick SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Mess-free ✅ Non-greasy ✅ Great for on-the-go❌ Little harder to rub in

The stick-style method of application will make it easy to quickly covers your kids' faces before they dash off again. The 5 UVA stars and 50+ SPF means the cream will keep them safe from the sun. And it's perfect for sticking in your bag for a day out at the park or beach.

Expert verdict: "Your face is the most exposed part of the body so even on a cloudy day, it's imperative to protect it every day," says Stephanie Maylor, Beauty Editor. "It also happens to be one of the trickiest places to apply sunscreen on a child's face, which is why this solid stick is great. There's no danger of getting it into the eyes and it's easy to swipe over the neck and ears, too."

10. Bioderma Photoderm Lait ULTRA SPF50+

Best sunscreen for the whole family

best sunscreen for kids - Bioderma Photoderm Lait ULTRA SPF50+

Credit: Just My Look

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ 8-hour hydration ✅ Designed for the whole family ✅ Fragrance-free❌ On the pricey side

Kids and adults alike are sure to love this light, non-tacky lotion - it’s so easy to rub in. A must-have for parents with kids suffering from allergies too, the skin-sensitive formula won’t cause irritation. It works for the whole family, including babies from 12 months, children, adults, pregnant and breastfeeding women. Plus, you can apply it to wet or dry skin, Most definitely a stand-out claim in our compilation of the best sunscreen for kids.

Expert verdict: "I always take Bioderma sunscreen away on holiday," admits GoodTo's Beauty Director Sarah Cooper-White. "The consistency of their sunscreens is so lovely and light that it makes applying it a breeze. Even on wriggly children."

11. Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Protection Spray SPF50+

Best sunscreen for great value

Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Protection Spray SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Anti-sand formula ✅ Bottle made from recycled plastic ✅ Enriched with aloe vera❌ Pump bottle can be stiff

This is a fast-absorbing, non-sticky sunscreen. It’s water and sand-resistant, and prevents the drying effect of frequent dips in the swimming pool (thanks to aloe vera). It’s been designed in partnership with Disney Nemo to offer an extra enticement to children who may resist wearing sunscreen.

Expert verdict: "The best sunscreen for your family is the one that your children are most comfortable wearing, which is why I highly recommend Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Protection Spray," says Beauty Editor, Stephanie Maylor. "Not only does it offer incredible protection against both UVA and UVB rays, but it melts into skin with very little rubbing (great for fidgety kids) and feels completely weightless with no greasiness."

12. Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Lotion for Children SPF50+

Best sunscreen to soothe sensitive skin

Eau Thermale Avène Very High Protection Lotion for Children SPF50+

Credit: Amazon

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Enriched with Thermal Spring Water to soothe ✅ Quick to absorb ✅ Moisturising lotion❌ Pricier than others on our list

Great for sensitive and eczema-prone skin. This highly protective sunscreen is enriched with Avène’s famous Spring Water, revered for its comforting properties. Not the most affordable, but a lovely lotion that’s suitable for the entire family.

Expert verdict: "Avéne Very High Protection Lotion for Children SPF50+ is a great all-round option for children’s sun protection, being long-lasting and water resistant too," says pharmacist Guilia Gurrieni. "The key ingredients in this lotion include Pre-Tocopheryl, which is a powerful antioxidant, alongside Avène thermal spring water, which has soothing properties that leave the skin feeling soothed, supple and soft."

13. Eucerin Sensitive Protect Kids Sun Spray SPF50+

Best sunscreen for atopic dermatitis

best sunscreen for kids - Eucerin Sensitive Protect Kids Sun Spray SPF50+

Credit: Boots

Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ | UVA protection: Both | Suncream type: Chemical | SPF: 50+ | Water resistant: Yes

ProsCons
✅ Anti-Stain After Wash technology ✅ Glycyrrhetinic Acid supports skin’s own DNA repair mechanism ✅ Soothes sensitive skin❌ One of the pricier options

If your child hates the feeling of sticky, gloopy sunscreens, this one will become a favourite. The lightweight, non-greasy spray is extra water-resistant. It is recommended for ages 3 and up, and is clinically and dermatologically proven to be suitable for children with sensitive skin, including Atopic Dermatitis.

Expert verdict: "For children with sensitive skin types, the Eucerin Sensitive Protect Kids Sun Spray SPF50+ is a great choice," pharmacist Guilia Gurrieni tells us. "The protection spray includes Glycyrrhetinic Acid, which supports the skin’s own DNA repair mechanism and is clinically and dermatologically proven to be suitable for children’s sensitive skin, including those with Atopic Dermatitis. However, it’s important to note that mist and sprays are not always as effective as lotions."

What SPF should I use on my child?

You should aim for the highest factor available - SPF50+ - with protection against both UVA and UVB rays for your child. As these are the best sunscreen for kids generally. The NHS (opens in new tab) recommends that babies under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight altogether. Especially between March and October in the UK all children should wear a minimum of SPF30 sunscreen, and stay out of the sun between 11am and 3pm. 

"I always recommend SPF 50+ sun cream, particularly because young skin is so much thinner and more delicate than adult," says Dr Jennifer Crawley. "But it's not all about SPF: it's also important to get a cream that protects against both UVA and UVB rays."

Sensitive formulas are also helpful for children. As Abi Cleeve, Ultrasun (opens in new tab) MD says: "The most important factors in choosing UV protection for kids is a sensitive formula with a very high SPF and UVA filter (ideally over 90%). Babies and children can be prone to heat rashes during hot or humid weather because their sweat glands are not fully developed."

a close up of a kid's face with a smear of sun cream on

Credit: Getty

Extend measures beyond the best sunscreen too. "Kids of all ages should be covering up exposed parts with suitable clothing," says Dr Mariam, GP and founder of Adegoke Wellness Clinic (opens in new tab). Whether they are building sandcastles at the beach or playing with the best outdoor toys for kids (opens in new tab) in the garden, it’s important to help protect your child with the right clothing, from UV protective swimwear to the best sun hats for kids (opens in new tab)

How often should you reapply sunscreen on kids?

Sunscreen should be topped up every two hours, and more often if your child is very active, or in and out of the pool. Apply the cream liberally - you can’t use too much sunscreen - and always re-apply immediately after your child is out of the water, making sure skin is completely dry beforehand. 

According to Dr Sandra Gamper, GP and Cosmetic Doctor (opens in new tab), you should reapply sunscreen probably a lot more regularly than you think. "Sun avoidance should be practised as much as possible. However, if that’s unavoidable, chemical sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before leaving the house. While mineral sunscreens offer protection the moment they are worn. Then keep reapplying every two hours or every time after a swim - when the skin is dry."

How frequently you apply sunscreen does depend somewhat on the formula you choose and your location in the world. "For example, in the UK long lasting formulas are ideal before school - as re-application isn’t always something that can be done during the school day," acknowledges skin expert Abi Cleeve. Generally, creams are best for a thorough application but sprays and mists are sometimes an easier option with children. 

Very few children enjoy having sunscreen applied - even the best sunscreen for kids. Especially when they’re in the middle of building a sandcastle or playing in the paddling pool. So Dr Jennifer Crawley suggests making it as fun as possible: "Get your little one involved in the process of applying sun cream by drawing fun shapes on their skin and allowing them to rub it in. You could also get them to do the same on you."

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Stephanie is a Beauty Editor across five national women’s magazine titles, with more than fifteen years’ experience working within the beauty industry. She has been shortlisted for multiple awards at the J&J Beauty Journalism Awards, and was the runner-up at the Wella Hair Journalism Awards in 2009. She has written for many brands, including Grazia, Now, More!, Fabulous, Woman & Home, NW, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly, Essentials, Best, Chat, Pick Me Up and OK! Online. In 2010 she launched her own beauty blog, which was also shortlisted for Best Beauty Blog in the 2011 and 2012 J&J Beauty Journalism Awards.