Protect Their Skin: Sunscreen Rules by Age

Before they have fun in the sun — protect that precious skin

May 08, 2024
By: Amanda Mushro

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Mother applying sunscreen protection creme on cute little toddler boy face. Mom using sunblocking lotion to protect baby from sun during summer sea vacation. Children healthcare at travel time.


Mother applying sunscreen protection creme on cute little toddler boy face. Mom using sunblocking lotion to protect baby from sun during summer sea vacation. Children healthcare at travel time.

Photo by: Kyryl Gorlov / EyeEm

Kyryl Gorlov / EyeEm

If sunny days mean more time outside, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your family has the proper sun protection. It’s great to have hats, sunglasses, and clothes that protect their skin from the harmful rays of the sun, and of course, sunscreen. But is all sunscreen created equal and can one brand work for your whole family?

Whether your child is six months or sixteen, you’ll want to make sure their skin is protected. While any sunscreen is better than none, here’s a guide on choosing the best sun protection for your kids based on their age.

Here’s What You Don’t Want in their Sunscreen:

  • Oxybenzone: This chemical is believed to cause hormonal issues and is also dangerous to coral reefs and other sea life
  • Fragrances, dyes, PABA, parabens, and phthalates: These can all irritate babies' sensitive skin
  • Sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or lower: This is not enough protection for your little one’s skin
  • Spray sunscreens: Yes, they are convenient but sprays don’t always provide great coverage

Here’s What You DO Want in their Sunscreen:

  • Broad-spectrum: This means it will protect against UVB and UVA rays
  • Titanium dioxide or Zinc Oxide: The active ingredients list should only contain one or both of these ingredients

For newborns and babies up to six months: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping babies in this age category out of direct sunlight. However, if that’s not possible, parents can apply a minimal amount of baby-safe sunscreen with an SPF of 30–50 to the face, back of the hands and tops of the feet.

For babies over six months: Cover all skin that will be exposed with SPF 30-50. Be sure to apply at least 15-30 minutes before heading outside. Grab a hat for your little one or make sure to put sunscreen on their scalp and ears. A lip balm with SPF is also helpful to protect their lips. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, but if they are in the water, it should be more frequently.

For big kids and teens: The same applies for their skin, SPF 30-50 should be applied before heading into the sun. For teens and tweens, look for sunscreen that doesn’t clog skin to prevent breakouts. It’s also helpful to grab different sizes of sunscreen so they can take some along with them no matter where they go.

Here are a few brands to try:


A favorite of pediatricians, dermatologists, and parents, Thinkbaby contains everything you want and none of the ingredients you don’t want.


Chasing your toddler or your kids to put on sunscreen can be tricky, but this brush on sunscreen makes applying it a lot easier and fun too.


Great for kids with sensitive skin, and the bottle helps you remember to reapply. The cap turns blue in the presence of harmful UV rays, so the brighter blue the bottle gets, the harsher the sun is.


A great drugstore option that is easy to grab and apply when you’re out with your baby. The gentle formula is designed with a baby’s sensitive skin in mind.


This lightweight mineral sunscreen is easy to apply and lasts for 80 minutes when in the water. Parents love the creamy lotion because it’s smooth and doesn’t leave a white cast.


This stick is great for toddlers and big kids.


A great sunscreen for kids and adults. The light formula isn't drying and won't clog pores.


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