Best SPF 50+ sunscreens for kids, toddlers and babies

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

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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 mums including 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 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.

Star rating is related to UVA protection, which is the type of radiation that causes long term damage and is associated with skin ageing. This is more complicated 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. So you can have 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 mums 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 how 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,” says Laura.

There’s also roll-on applicators which 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.

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

And always remember to 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.

And remember that sun cream has 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. Soltan Kids Sensitive Protect Lotion SPF50+, £6.50 for 200ml (£3.25 per 100ml)

Sun protection: 5 star UVA and SPF50+ UVB

If your kids suffer from prickly heat rash, this Boots Soltan Sensitive lotion works particularly well at cooling it down which mum of 2, Dani, found, “It’s the only cream that has worked for us and stops that mottled itchy rash which can be so annoying.”

Our testers like that it’s specially formulated for children sensitive skin but doesn’t have a formula that lingers on the skin. For example Puneet, mum of 4, says: “Mili has eczema and tans easily but doesn’t like very sticky creams. This one came out quite thick and I did think it would be one that takes ages to absorb but I was impressed at how easily it disappeared when on the skin”.

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, £6 for 200ml (£3 per 100ml)

Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB

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 mums.

They also 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. Nivea Sun Kids Suncream Spray SPF50+, Coloured, £6 for 200ml (£3 per 100ml)

Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB

This Nivea sun cream comes in a spray bottle and in a water-resistant formula, so is great at keeping your kids protected while they’re in the sea or pool this summer (for 80 to 120 minutes according to Nivea). Keep in mind that even if a formula says it’s “water resistant”, you’ll need to reapply straight after your child is out the water.

Initially it sprays a light blue colour which is handy to see where you’ve rubbed it in and to ensure you’ve got even coverage, but don’t worry about the colour staying on the skin as mum of 2, Dani, found it absorbs really quickly.

The bright application colour can also be useful if you’ve got kids who aren’t so keen on wearing sun cream which Dani also likes, “The lotion is a really light blue colour, which always makes the kids laugh. We have never burned in the sun using this lotion – it provides amazing protection, and rubs in so easily.”

Available from: Boots, Superdrug and Amazon

4. Cien Sun Spray for Kids SPF50+, £2.39 for 150ml (£1.60 per 100ml)

Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB

If you’re looking for a sun cream 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.

MFM tester and mum of 3, Jenny says: “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”.

Keep in mind if your child’s got sensitive skin that although Lidl says the formula is fragrance free, our mums notice a subtle smell when using the spray.

Available from: Lidl

5. Solait Kids Sun Cream Spray SPF50+, £4.99 for 200ml (£2.50 per 100ml)

Sun protection: 5 star UVA and SPF50+ UVB

Superdrug’s Solait sun cream range includes this Trigger Spray, which offers five star UVA and SPF50+ UVB protection. It comes in an easy to use spray bottle which includes a safety clasp, ideal for using on the go. Superdrug says its ‘Aquarich’ formula also provides hydration throughout the day which 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 spray may stain clothing, but 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

6. Nivea Sun Kids Suncream Pink Roll-On SPF50+, £5.50 for 50ml (£10.98 per 100ml)

Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB 

For a kids SPF that’s great for using on the go, you can’t go wrong with Nivea’s Pink 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, which many customers praised. And its secure packaging also means less chance of messy leaks.

The fun pink cream is great for kids who are reluctant when it comes to sunscreen application but for parents it also means you can see exactly where you’ve applied and if you’ve missed any spots before the colour absorbs.

Available from: Superdrug and Fragrance Direct

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

Sun protection: 5 star UVA and UVB SPF50+

As well as spray sun protection for kids, Superdrug’s Solait range also does a baby sun cream with advanced UVA and UVB protection. 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

8. Childs Farm SPF 50+ Sun Cream, £11.99 for 125ml (£9.59 per 100ml)

Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB

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, says it’s the best cream she’s used on her daughter.

She says, “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.”

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

Available from: Child’s Farm, Boots and Amazon

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

Sun protection: 5 star UVA and SPF50+ UVB

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”.

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

10. La Roche Posay Anthelios Dermo-Kids Sun Lotion SPF50+, £11.25 for 100ml

 Sun protection: UVA and SPF50+ UVB

Although at the higher end of the price scale, La Roche Posay’s Anthelios formula for kids receives strong praise for use on sensitive skin.

Previous customers 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.

Available from: Boots, Look Fantastic and Feel Unique

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