Easily one of the most grueling tasks of parenthood is applying sunscreen—it typically involves wrestling a squirming child and getting an elbow to your face. And we have to do it roughly every 90 minutes on sunny days!
Almost as grueling? Figuring out what’s safe, effective and not harmful to the planet.
When it comes to best sunscreen for kids, there are two types: chemical sunscreen and mineral sunscreen. While a case can be made for both, mineral sunscreens are generally preferred by experts for several reasons. One, because their active ingredients (zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide) work by reflecting the sun, they don’t require a 15-minute wait time to take effect, as chemical sunscreens do. They also last longer and are less likely to cause irritation. It’s also much more likely that a mineral formula is safer for the planet. Generally, they’re free from harmful ingredients like oxybenzone which has contributed to the bleaching of coral reefs.
Why choose a mineral sunscreen?
Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist in New York City, says that mineral sunscreen can be a better option for kids and babies over six months old. “[Their skin] is much more sensitive than that of adults. So we have to be extra careful in what sunscreens we apply on them. Mineral sunscreens are less likely to cause skin irritation or allergies as compared to chemical UV blockers. Plus, mineral blockers like zinc oxide, actually have skin-soothing benefits, which is why it is the main ingredient used in diaper creams.” (The FDA and AAP do not recommend sunscreen for babies under six months. Instead, it’s best to keep them out of the sun and keep their skin covered with lightweight clothing. And don’t forget a sun hat!)
So, we tested tons and tons of mineral based sunscreens comprising zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and came up with a list of our ten favorites. In addition to them being safe and free from any ingredients that could harm the oceans and coral reefs, it was also hugely important to us for our picks to be moisturizing and easy to apply. Because there’s nothing worse than lathering on a sunscreen that feels like glue and leaves a thick white residue, right? Well, actually, super oily sunscreens are pretty awful, too. Rest assured, our picks are just right.
Check out some of the best mineral sunscreens below that our editors actually use:
It would be hard to overstate the perfection that is MDSolarSciences. From its silky soft texture that’s not at all sticky or greasy to its completely sheer application (even on dark skin!), I’ve never used another sunscreen like it. And given the fact it’s developed by a dermatologic oncologist and made in small batches, there really isn’t another sunscreen like it.
The SPF 50 mineral-based formula is powered by titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and jam-packed with skin-boosting ingredients like Vitamin C and aloe. It’s completely fragrance-free, safe for sensitive skin and blends in like a dream. Can you imagine a summer without whining every time you pull out the sunscreen bottle? Victory can be yours!
What’s more, MDSolarSciences is super committed to sustainability with fully recyclable packaging and 100% vegan and reef-safe formulas.
As a mom who wears facial sunscreen every single day whether I’m planning to be in the sun or not, I’m getting my kids into the same habit. After all, UV rays are UV rays whether they’re in the pool in June or playing on the playground in December. To keep their faces protected all year round, I’m a big fan of the (S)undercover Face Sunscreen from Tubby Todd. Like the rest of their clean bath and body products, this non-nano mineral sunscreen was developed with sensitive-skinned babies in mind, but effective for kids and adults too. The zinc-based formula is thin but not runny, allowing it to glide on almost like serum. Most impressively it sinks in almost instantly without feeling sticky or leaving a shiny white cast. And even though it sits next to my kids’ toothpaste to remind them to put it on, it’s so lovely I’ve taken to using it myself!
If you’re looking for a sunscreen that cares for people as much as it cares for the planet, Project Reef is your new go-to. On the “people” front, the non-nano zinc formula glides on easy and sinks right in without feeling sticky or leaving a white cast. And because it’s loaded with ingredients like aloe vera, coconut and sea buckthorn oils, and even green tea it offers the added bonus of hydration and skin nourishment. Compared to others, the formula is on the thinner side (as in, one shake of the tube and out it comes–no squeezing required) which in my opinion is a plus. Too thick, gloppy sunscreen means you’re rubbing in for hours and no kid has the patience for that!
As far as the planet, Project Reef is on a mission to restore clean up the ocean, one bottle at a time. Not only are their products reef-safe, but for each product sold they remove a pound of plastic from the worlds oceans through partner organizations such as ReSea and PlasticBank.
Bare Republic’s line of mineral sunscreens checks all the boxes and then some. They’re reef-friendly, free of all the nasties like phthalates and parabens, and packed with safe and natural ingredients that feel amazing on the skin. But the standout of the bunch? The Baby Soft Stick. The formula features non-nano zinc oxide, vitamin E, cottonseed and chamomile extract to help soften and soothe skin and can last up to 80 minutes in the water. It’s not at all greasy and leaves an almost powdery finish that is totally fragrance-free.
But what sets this little miracle apart is the applicator. Designed to glide across baby’s skin without tugging or pulling, it features a spongy top with holes to evenly distribute the lotion, almost like deodorant, but better. In fact, your little one might actually enjoy the process for once. (However, we guarantee nothing.)
Mamas of kiddos with eczema may know Mustela for their sensitive skincare products for babies and kids, but did you know they have a sunscreen line as well? One of our fave products, a SPF 50 sunscreen stick, is formulated with sensitive skin in mind. They are both broad-spectrum and non-nano mineral sunscreens that have received National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Eczema Association (NEA) seals. We can attest that Mustela’s sunscreen stick goes on smooth and clear and dare we say, easy to apply to a wiggling toddler and baby?
This summer Mustela is making applying sunscreen even easier with their new SPF 50 mineral sunscreen lotion in the family size. This 100% non nano mineral formula is 11 fluid ounces, which means it’s sure to cover you and your fam for all of summer’s adventures.
Bonus: Mustela is a B-Corp and they’re committed to sustainability: all containers are recyclable, they use 100% green electricity in the production process and they’re aiming to go carbon-neutral by 2030.
If you’re thinking you’re priced out of mineral sunscreens—and we understand why, the cost of some of our faves are tough to swallow, especially if you have multiple kids—fear not, because Hello Bello is the answer.
From Hollywood A-listers Kristen Bell and Dax Shepherd, Hello Bello is an organic, affordable line of baby products that includes a Mineral Sunscreen. Let’s just say we were prepared to be unimpressed with this product…and then we used it for a week straight on our kids. Non-greasy and delicious-smelling, it rubs on easily (no residue!), doesn’t sting sensitive eyes, and has the broad-spectrum protection we need. And it’s the cheapest option on our list!
Hot tip: We love their mineral sunscreen stick, for easy application for faces and top of the ears.
The plant-based formula has a blend of coconut oil and shea butter so it’ll leave the kiddos with super-soft skin, even after a day out in the sun. This is is specifically formulated for your little ones and is water-resistant up to 80 minutes. It’s not greasy and the spray means you can lather down even the squirmiest child.
It’s SPF 50 and works great for the face and body, making it a great one to just toss in your bag for broad-spectrum protection all summer long.
The people have spoken, and they’ve crowned Thinkbaby as their favorite. We have to agree with the 9k+ Amazon reviewers who have made this sunscreen a bestseller for the retailer. Thinkbaby consistently scores high with the EWG (Environment Working Group) and it was the first sunscreen to pass Whole Foods Premium Care requirements.
Created with safety for families in mind and made in the USA, the brand also offers a mineral-based kids sport sunscreen with SPF 50 and a regular sport SPF 50. And after testing all of them on our families, we can say the proof is in the pudding… er, broad-spectrum sunscreen. We loved the citrus-y smell and the fact that it glides on baby and adult skin alike. At this price point, it’s worth stocking up on.
This natural mineral sunscreen is practically skincare. It goes on super smooth, coming out of the bottle with a greenish-blue tint—it’s very liquid-like so it’s easy to spread around easily (a little goes a long way!). It uses 100% mineral zinc oxide to protect skin from everything from UV rays to blue light and environmental stressors.
We love that it’s plant-based (it has jojoba in it!) and that it absorbs quickly so you don’t have any leftover residue. This one for the body is SPF 30, but they also have a face-specific formula that is designed for blemish-prone skin.
If you’re looking to make SPF a lifestyle and not just a beach-day application, Supergoop is your answer. A cult favorite with beauty types, Supergoop combines sunscreen and skincare into one seamless line of products—the company motto, after all is, “Healthy skin starts with daily SPF.”
While the original Unseen Sunscreen SPF 40 is beloved by beauty editors everywhere as a velvety makeup primer and the Sunnyscreen Mineral Lotion is great for babies six months and older, we were completely smitten with the ultra-lightweight, water-resistant, non-aerosol Supergoop Play! Mineral Sunscreen Mist.
Unlike other mineral mists, this one sprayed on white but with a few swipes of your hand, rubs in beautifully and doesn’t dry out your skin. Packed with marigold extract, the zinc-oxide based sunscreen will leave you and your kiddos smelling delish.
All hail La Roche-Posay! The brand’s Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk has received a perfect score of 100 from Consumer Reports five years in a row, so it was a no-brainer for us to demo the natural version, Anthelios SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen.
Let us be clear: This is the fanciest sunscreen on our list. With a spa-like scent, Anthelios feels like something that would be slathered on your face during a facial. Milky and moisturizing, it blends easily onto the skin and can be used on face and body and is safe for adults and kids alike.
The downside? The price… but this is a case in which you get what you pay for. And trust us when we say it’s money well spent.
Blue Lizard is the workhorse sunscreen on our list. Developed more than 20 years ago in Australia where sunscreen standards have stronger water resistance claims, this is the best safe sunscreen for busy mamas.
Why? We love the “smart bottle technology,” where the bottle of Blue Lizard’s sunscreen turns blue in harmful UV light—reminding multitasking moms that it’s time to reapply! It’s water-resistant for 80 minutes, paraben- and fragrance-free, and most importantly, it blends into your skin like a dream.
Need more proof? Read why one of our editors is obsessed with this brand here.