Use a high SPF: A water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher will be the safest choice for your kids. This ensures your sunscreen protects against both harmful UVA and UVB rays.
Choose mineral: Many dermatologists prefer physical (a.k.a. mineral) sunscreens made of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, which deflect sun rays, whereas a chemical sunscreen absorbs them, says Dr. Feely. These natural sunscreens are often gentler on kids’ sensitive skin. (Mineral formulas are also reef-safe, so you’ll keep coral-damaging chemicals out of our oceans too.) “Babies and kids have thinner skin and a higher surface-to-volume ratio,” says Dr. Tzu. Because their skin absorbs more per unit of body weight than an adult does, “it’s important to make sure that whatever you put on their skin is ‘pure,’” she adds. Translation: Avoid using sunscreens with chemical ingredients (such as oxybenzone or avobenzone), as they have a higher risk for irritation.
Think of application: Experts prefer lotions for surer application. But if you must use a spray, “The nozzle should be about 2 centimeters away from the skin and you should see the liquid on the skin,” says Dr. Friedman. “Sticks are also crowd favorites, but need four passes on each area of skin to have any effect,” he adds. The bottom line: Lotions tend to be best unless you can diligently apply a spray or stick sunscreen.