EWG Ranks This Summer's Best—And Worst—Sunscreens for Kids

SPF isn't the only thing to consider.
ByAnisa Arsenault
Associate Editor
Published
May 2017
Illustration of sunscreen

With the warmer months fast approaching, summer safety is top of mind. Just in time to help, the Environmental Working Group released its 2017 sunscreen guide, vetting suntan lotions based on effectiveness and ingredients.

The non-profit advocacy group (which, while known for thorough research, is not affiliated with official health organizations like the FDA) looked at over 239 beach and sport sunscreens, filtering them further based on which ones were marketed for babies and kids. (Keep in mind, however, there’s no FDA requirements to differentiate kids’ sunscreen from adult sunscreen.)

These 14 fell flat:

  1. Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
  2. Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
  3. Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
  4. Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
  5. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
  6. Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
  7. Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
  8. Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
  9. Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
  10. CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
  11. Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
  12. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
  13. Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
  14. Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55

Three main factors can earn a sunscreen a poor rating from the EWG:

  1. Ingredients like oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate count as strikes because they are linked to health problems—skin reactions and tumor/lesion enhancement, respectively.
  2. Aerosol sprays are on the ‘worst’ list because they don’t cover the skin evenly or thickly, and can increase exposure to harmful chemicals when inhaled. (And recent horror stories are giving parents good reason to stay away.)
  3. Anything with an SPF over 50 gets a strike because it gives people a false sense of security without offering any meaningful, additional protection. SPF protects against UVB rays that burn the skin, but not UVA rays that penetrate it.

So what can you use instead? As a general rule, mineral-based sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients is best.

These 19 earned the stamp of approval:

  1. Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
  2. All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
  3. All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  4. Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
  5. Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
  6. Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
  7. Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
  8. Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30+
  9. BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
  10. California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
  11. Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
  12. Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  13. Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
  14. Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
  15. Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
  16. Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
  17. ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
  18. Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
  19. TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30

It’s important to note that sunscreen isn’t the only way—or even the best way—to protect yourself and your children from the sun. Finding shade and planning activities around peak sun hours should be your first courses of action whenever possible.

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