Parents and caregivers know that applying a safe, effective sunscreen to children is one key to protecting them from sun damage. Sunscreen should never be your child’s first line of defense against the sun, of course, and the reality is that some products may actually do more harm than good.
Here’s what to avoid:
- Spray sunscreens – They can be inhaled and don’t cover skin completely.
- SPF values above 50+ – They try to trick you into believing they’ll prevent sun damage. Don’t trust them. Useful SPF protection tops out at 30 to 50.
- Oxybenzone – This common ingredient can disrupt the hormone system.
- Retinyl palmitate – Here’s another ingredient to avoid. It may actually trigger skin damage on sun-exposed skin.
Here’s our list of the worst sunscreens for kids.
They each have at least three strikes against them: sky-high SPFs and potentially harmful ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Two have another strike against them: They’re aerosol sprays that can harm sensitive young lungs. Convenient? Yes. Good for kids? Absolutely not.
Keep these 11 sunscreens out of your shopping cart:
- Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
- Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
- Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
- Coppertone Kids Wacky Foam Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70+
- Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
- Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
- Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
- Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
- Kroger Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
- Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
- Up & Up Kid’s Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen Lotion SPF 60+
- CVS Baby Pure & Gentle Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 60
Both Neutrogena’s Pure & Free Baby sunscreen and the CVS knock-off claim to be “hypoallergenic” but actually include a potent skin allergen: the preservative methylisothiazolinone.
Visit the EWG Guide to Sunscreens to find the best sunscreens for kids.
Remember: it takes only a few blistering sunburns during childhood to double a person’s lifetime chance of developing melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. The best defenses against getting too much harmful UV radiation are protective clothing, shade and timing. Practice these sun safety habits to keep your children safe in the sun:
- Cover up. Wide-brimmed hats or visors and loose-fitting shirts, shorts and pants block harmful UV rays.
- Wear sunglasses. A good pair will help shield eyes from the UV radiation that causes cataracts.
- Stay in the shade. Whenever kids are outdoors, keep them in the shade as much as possible. Keep infants under six months out of direct sun.
- Schedule outdoor time. Go outdoors in early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is lower.
Want more tips? Visit the Healthy Child Healthy World 2015 Sun Safety Guide for Children.