Learn how to choose the best sunscreen to protect your child from sun damage.

What to look for:

SPF 30

Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Sunscreen with SPF 15 or less will not protect as well against premature aging or skin cancer. Sunscreen with SPF 70 or higher does not provide much additional protection.

Broad Spectrum

Sunscreens labeled as broad spectrum protect against two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

  • UVA rays­­­­ cause skin aging, wrinkling, some sunburns and skin cancer.
  • UVB rays cause sunburns and skin cancer.


Although a water-resistant sunscreen is not waterproof, it can protect your child for up to 40 to 80 minutes of sweating or playing in water. Always reapply after 80 minutes.

Physical or Chemical

Chemical sunscreens:

  • Absorb the sun’s rays.
  • Contain ingredients such as oxybenzone and avobenzone.
  • Are easy to rub in.

Physical sunscreens:

  • Block the sun’s rays.
  • Contain titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.
  • Good for children with sensitive skin.


The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following types of sunscreen: 

  • gels
  • lotions
  • sprays
  • sticks
  • creams


  • moisturizers and cosmetics as only form of sun protection
  • sunscreen and insect combination

Free of allergens

If your child has contact dermatitis, look through the ingredient list to make sure the sunscreen doesn’t contain the ingredient your child is allergic to.

Still in date
Active ingredients in sunscreen go bad over time. 
If there is no expiration date listed, discard after three years from purchase.

Is sunscreen enough?

During peak hours of the day, seek shade and keep your child covered with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) clothing, a brimmed hat and sunglasses for extra protection.

What age to start?

“According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, regular use of sunscreen is recommended when children are 6 months of age and older,” says Carrie Coughlin, MD, Washington University pediatric dermatologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Before then, only small amounts are recommended. Covering infants with full body swimsuits or rash guards can limit the amount of skin exposed to the sun.”