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Best SPF 50+ sunscreens for kids, toddlers and babies 6mths+ tested by families

Our MFM testers have put a range of children’s SPF 50 sunscreens to the test

baby and child sunscreens

Keeping your child’s skin protected in the sun is highly important to prevent burning and long term damage. There’s a whole range of sun creams specially formulated for kids, so we’ve put some to the test with our MFM home testers. The selection ncludes top selling brands, supermarket own brands and formulas designed for sensitive skin.

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MFM testers used the creams on their babies and children, looking at ease of use, rubbing in, washing off, effect on skin, fragrance, stain risk and packaging.

See our selection of the best SPF50+ sunscreens for kids, toddlers and babies.

What’s the difference between UVA and UVB protection?

You’ll commonly find two protection ratings on sunscreens – UVA and UVB. Both of these can cause skin cancer as well as cell damage, so both ratings are important.

SPF rating is the old ‘Factor’ number which shows protection against UVB rays – this is what can cause burning of the skin. SPF 6-14 is considered low protection, 15-29 is medium and 30-50+ is high. The SPF represents how much longer you can stay in the sun without your skin burning – it doesn’t mean the protection is better, it just lasts longer.

UVA protection is the type of radiation that causes long term damage and is associated with skin ageing. It is rated in the UK using a star rating system, the rights to which are owned by Boots. It can be confusing, as it’s not a straight measure of UVA protection. Instead it indicates the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB. This means you may see 5 stars on a lower SPF product that may not offer you as much UVA protection as a 3 star SPF 50 product.

What type of sunscreen is best for kids?

We know different sun creams appeal to different families and nowadays you’ll find a whole range of formulas available from lotions to sprays and roll-ons. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it all depends on how much you apply and how often you reapply when your kids are in the sun.

Parents we spoke to said they like lotion formulas for kids as you can see exactly where you’ve applied, but also mentioned how handy sprays are for topping up application or towards the end of the day when there’s less sun exposure.

“We use cream because you can see where it is, and make sure it covers properly. The only problem is it’s a pain to get out of t-shirt cuffs, shorts and socks,” said mum Laura.

Roll-on applicators are handy for using on the go, as mum Kayleigh found: “I prefer the roll on lotions, they don’t get everywhere when you’re trying to apply them and it also means I can put one each inside my kids school bags for them to reapply themselves throughout the day.”

As well applying sunscreen it’s also important to keep children’s eyes protected with sunglasses – you can find some great picks made for babies as well as kids.

How long does sunscreen last?

You might come across some sunscreens that offer “once a day” protection but it’s not advised to just apply once if your kids are outside for an extended period of time, even if that’s what it says on the bottle.

In fact, the British Association of Dermatologists (BDA) advises reapplying at least every 2 hours if you’re out in the sun.

You should also remember to always reapply after swimming or towel drying. Water resistant formulas will keep kids protected for two 20 minute intervals (40 minutes total) of moderate activity in water according to the BDA, but towel drying may remove the product so it’s always worth reapplying.

Is it worth bulk buying sunscreen?

Many high street and supermarket brands have a high RRP, but in peak sun cream season you’ll see them on sale for 33-50% less – allowing the stores to offer what seem to be eye-catching discounts.

At MFM we’d suggest this is more of a marketing ploy than a real discount. It happens every year, suggesting that the bulk of sun screen is planned to be sold at the ‘discounted’ price.

Sun creams have an expiry date, so only buy as much as you think you’re going to use for the year. Look for the period-after-opening symbol on the back of the product (an open cosmetics pot with a number) which will indicate how many months you can use the sun cream after opening it. 

If you come across any unopened bottles they’ll also have an expiry date on them, so it’s worth checking before you use the sun cream on your kids.

For more information on keeping kids skin protected in the skin, check out our detailed guide where we speak to Cancer Research UK.

Here’s our pick of the best sunscreens for kids…

1. Boots Soltan Kids Protect and Moisturise SPF50+, £7.50 for 400ml (£1.88 per 100ml)

Best for all-round protection

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 5 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

Boots Soltan is a go-to for many of our testers, with praise for its consistency and ease of use. Mum Zara said, “it rubs in well and as it’s slightly thicker it’s easier to see if you’ve missed a bit.” Kayleigh, mum of 3, found, “It’s always done the trick for us, three of mine have varying degrees of eczema and none have been aggravated by Boots Soltan.”

It’s advised to reapply this sun cream every 1-2 hours but it does come in secure packaging so is a good option for using on the go which Charlie, mum of 2, found, “The lid of the bottle sealed well and didn’t leak at all when thrown into the changing bag”. You can pick it up as either a spray or lotion, but it’s worth keeping in mind that some Boots customers found the spray to stop working after a few uses.

Available from: Boots

2. Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Sensitive Sun Cream SPF50+ 200ml, £7 for 200ml (£3.50 per 100ml)

Best for sensitive skin

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 5 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

This sun cream from Garnier’s kids range is specially formulated for fair and sensitive skin with no fragrance or colourants, making it a firm favourite amongst our testers. Mum Caroline has used it with all her 3 children and says, “my eldest suffers from eczema and struggles with other sun creams.”

Parents liked its hydrating qualities with the addition of shea butter, which will leave your little one’s skin feeling soft as well as protected. MFM tester and mum of 2 Janet says: “I felt confident it wouldn’t irritate my daughter’s sensitive skin and liked that it was slightly moisturising”.

It’s also quick to absorb so you won’t be left with a sticky residue which tester, mum of 1, Davina likes, “I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly the cream sunk into my little girls skin, considering the SPF. This is a major consideration when you only have a limited time window to apply the cream on to a wriggling baby!”.

Available from: Amazon, Asda and Boots

3. Cien Sun Spray for Kids SPF50+, £2.99 for 150ml (£1.99 per 100ml)

Best for value

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 3-4 | Formula: Spray | Water resistant: Yes

If you’re looking for sun protection that’s good value for money, it’s worth having a look at Lidl’s Cien range. This sun spray comes in an easy to use aerosol and our mums found it was quick to absorb and doesn’t leave a sticky residue. It does, however, have a lower UVA star rating than some other products.

MFM tester and mum of 3, Jenny said, “I can imagine the kids enjoying the cooling sensation if we were on a very hot holiday from being sprayed and a good amount is distributed from one spray”.

If your child’s got sensitive skin, keep in mind that although Lidl says the formula is fragrance free, our mums notice a subtle smell when using the spray. However, tester Victoria said she had “no issues with skin reactions with any of my three. It’s cheap but does the job and no itching for the kids so and absolute winner in my books.”

Available from: Lidl

4. Superdrug Solait Kids Sun Cream Spray SPF50+, £5.99 for 200ml (£3 per 100ml)

Best for kids to apply

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 3-4 | Formula: Spray | Water resistant: Yes

Superdrug’s Solait sun cream range includes this handy trigger spray, which is so easy to use that older kids will be able to apply it themselves. The green tint will also help them to apply it and rub it in evenly (although an adult should always supervise to ensure they’ve covered every bit of exposed skin). The spray lotion offers five star UVA and SPF50+ UVB protection, and the bottle includes a safety clasp, ideal for using on the go. Superdrug says its ‘Aquarich’ formula also provides hydration throughout the day. Melanie, mum of 3, found, “This cream absorbs into the skin quickly and leaves a nice sheen without feeling too sticky”.

Keep in mind that the green tint may stain clothing, although our mums say this easily washes off. Rykesha, mum of 1, says, “The sun cream sprays out green (though it rubs in clear)… It also left green marks on her clothing but they were easily washed away”.

Available from: Superdrug

5. Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Care Caring Roll-On, £3.99 for 50ml (£7.98 per 100ml)

Best for on the go

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 4 | Formula: Roll-on | Water resistant: Yes

For a kids SPF that’s great for using when you’re on the go, you can’t go wrong with Nivea’s kids roll-on. Its compact size is great for top ups when you’re out with your kids, especially if you don’t have space to carry a larger bottle around. Its secure packaging also means less chance of messy leaks, and kids love to try applying it themselves. Mum Kayleigh said, of her 6-year-old daughter, “We use Nivea for our daughter as she can reapply the roll on herself.”

The texture and ease of use of Nivea’s cream is also a hit with our parents. “I like Nivea sun cream, it’s good coverage, soaks in well and never had sunburn,” said tester Nikki. The roll-on is available in coloured versions too: look for pink or green to offer a fun twist to help your kids apply it.

Available from: Amazon, Boots and Superdrug

6. Superdrug Solait Baby Sun Cream SPF50+, £5.99 for 200ml (£3 per 100ml)

Best for babies over 6 months

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 5 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

As well as spray sun protection for kids, Superdrug’s Solait range also does a baby sun cream with advanced UVA and UVB protection for babies between 6-12 months. Our mums like that it leaves the skin feeling moisturised as well as protected. Lucy, mum of 2, says, “You can feel a slight film on the skin but more moisturising that greasy”.

It has a slight coconut smell which isn’t too overpowering, but if your little one has sensitive skin then it may be worth looking for sun creams without fragrance such as Child’s Farm.

Available from: Superdrug

7. Childs Farm SPF 50+ Sun Cream, £12 for 125ml (£9.60 per 100ml)

Best for eczema-prone skin

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 3 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

All of Childs Farm’s products are tailored for children with sensitive skin, with dermatologist and paediatrician approval for eczema prone skin. This can be seen in customer praise for the brand’s sun cream which says that it’s kind to kids skin and doesn’t result in any reaction – in fact one of our parent testers, Abi, considers it the best cream she’s used on her daughter.

She said, “After the initial application, it is a bit on the greasy side but soon disappears and leaves the skin feeling moisturised without any stickiness. I’m also pretty impressed with the lack of transfer to material.” Natalia, whose daughter has very sensitive skin, said, “We like how it goes on and seems to last a long time you don’t feel you need to be reapplying like all the time. It also has a nice smell even though it is unfragranced.”

At nearly £10 per 100ml it’s more expensive compared to ranges such as Soltan and Cien, and it is a thicker and greasier lotion to rub in, but it is definitely worth considering if your child has eczema or sensitive skin and other sun creams tend to cause a reaction.

You may also be concerned by the lower UVA star rating. On this, Child’s Farm says, “Our UVA star rating is 3, which a good level of protection and meets the EU requirements for UVA protection. As far as we know, all sunscreens that are suitable for sensitive and also eczema-prone skin have achieved a 3* rating, as it is has not been possible to achieve a 5* rating using ingredients that are suitable for sensitive and eczema-prone skin.”

Available from: Child’s Farm, Boots and Amazon

8. Boots Soltan Once Kids 8hr Protect & Play lotion SPF50+, £10 for 200ml (£5 per 100ml)

Best for long-lasting protection

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 5 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

This sun cream from Boots’ Soltan range has a five star UVA rating – the highest level of sun protection a sun cream can offer. Michelle, mum of 2, likes how quickly the thick cream absorbs into her kids’ skin, “The moisturised element came through immediately and neither of us was left greasy, sticky and it did seem to rub in straight away rather than rest on top of the skin”.

As a “once” lotion, it’s designed to provide long-lasting protection for up to 8 hours, but even so, it’s important – especially if your kids have been in and out of water, or sweating a lot during sports – to reapply often.

Keep in mind this may stain your little one’s clothing, but it can be easily washed out. Lucy, mum of 1, says, “There was evidence of the sun cream on dark clothing, but most of Harry’s summer clothes are light and bright and I see no issue with getting the sun cream on them as it appeared to wash off ok”.

Available from: Boots

9. La Roche Posay Anthelios Dermo-Kids Sun Lotion SPF50+, £15 for 100ml

Best for delicate faces

SPF: 50+ |UVA star rating: Not available | Formula: Milk/Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

Although at the higher end of the price scale, French pharmacy brand La Roche Posay’s Anthelios formula for kids receives strong praise for use on sensitive skin. MFM editor Gemma struggled to find a sun cream that worked for her toddler given his tendency to rub his eyes, but this one passed the test.

Users find it easy to apply leaving no stickiness or causing any adverse reactions, with one parent saying, “My two year old son suffered with eczema and we struggled to find any sun protection that didn’t make it worse. We were recommended this product and have never looked back.”

You may find this lotion for kids is slightly whiter than the Anthelios range for adults, but this is to ensure complete coverage so you can see if you’ve missed any spots when applying. There’s no UVA star rating as this brand is French, but it offers what’s described as “exceptionally high broad, photostable UVA/UVB & Infrared protection.”

Available from: Boots, Look Fantastic and Amazon

10. Banana Boat Advanced Baby Sun Protection Lotion, £6.00 for 60ml (£10 per 100ml)

Best for travel

Banana Boat baby sun cream

SPF: 50+ |UVA star rating: Not available | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

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Banana Boat’s sunscreen for babies over 6 months provides broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, and is also designed to work against sun, wind, heat, sand, ocean, sweat and pool. The handy tube is suitable to pop in hand luggage and it’s designed so sand easily brushes off: no more sticky, sandy baby skin.

The lotion has a lightweight feel that’s water-resistant and easy to rub in – MFM tester Mollie says it’s “very moisturising”. MFM tester Laura also uses this lotion, saying “the Banana Boat is great, I use it for top ups through the day or after the pool.”

Available from: Banana Boat and Amazon

11. SunSense Kids SPF50+, £16 for 125ml (£12.80 per 100ml)

Best for very fair skin

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 3 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

Sun Sense Kids SPF50+ is a dermatologically-tested, high-protection sunscreen for use on children’s skin from 6 months. It combines broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection in a light moisturising lotion. Easy to apply and quickly-absorbed, it contains Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide) to enhance skin texture and tone, and replenish dry skin.

It’s made and tested in Australia, where the rules on sun protection are particularly strict. MFM tester Anita says: “My GP recommended the British Association of Dermatologists website where you can find advice on types of cream for sensitive skin. Through there we found SunSense. My daughter has super sensitive skin and eczema and this has been great for us.”

Available from: Amazon, Just My Look and SunSense

12. Toddle Sun and Wind Balm — Kids SPF 50+, £9.99 for 100ml

Best for the eco-conscious

SPF: 50+ | UVA star rating: 5 | Formula: Lotion | Water resistant: Yes

Toddle prides itself on offering one of the most natural products out there. Houses in a bioplastic tube, the sun & wind balm has Vitamin B5, Vitamin B3 and Vitamin E, but fewer preservatives than most sun creams. It’s dermatologically tested and is paraben-free, too.

Toddle’s vegan formula provides very high protection, with good levels of UVA and UVB protection and a super high SPF rating. However, as it has a reduced level of preservatives, once opened, it needs to be used within 6 months. MFM tester Laura says: “I’ve been using Toddle suncream – its sensitive and organic plus SPF50 (I ordered it with their no alcohol hand mist too which is fab!)”

Available from: Amazon and Toddle

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