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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.
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: