Child-Friendly Summer: What's The Best Sunscreen For Kids?

Skin cancer rates are on the rise at over 76,000 new cases of invasive melanoma poised to be diagnosed in the U.S. this year. But this should not get in the way of fun this summer, particularly for children who deserve their share of sun and play this season.

Nonprofit organization Environmental Working Group (EWG) recently released its annual evaluation of sunscreens on the market, checking 750 sunscreen brands with a particular focus this year on products for babies and young kids.

The verdict: three-quarters of the tested products provide inadequate protection or contain concerning ingredients. Looking at products with terms such as "little," "kids" or "babies" in the title, EWG saw little difference between sunscreens catering to children and adults.

Little Difference Between Kid And Adult Sunscreen

"Sometimes, the label might say 'pure and gentle,' which would be more of a mineral-type product, which is good," said EWG senior analyst and study author Sonya Lunder in a Philadelphia Inquirer interview. "But in general, there are no rules about what makes a baby product, and there's not an across-the-board difference."

Another reason they looked at kids' products this year, explained Lunder, is that misguided sun exposure during childhood does seem to raise the risk for developing melanoma — for unclear reasons yet compelling enough to cover kids up and prevent sunburn.

Read the list of the 22 top-scoring sunscreen products for children this year:

TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30+
Thinksport for Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Kids, SPF 50
Substance Baby Natural Sun Care Creme, SPF 30
Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen, SPF 32
Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Hampton Sun Sunscreen Lotion For Baby, SPF 45
Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Coola Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen Unscented Moisturizer, SPF 50
California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen, SPF 35
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby, SPF 30+
Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Bare Belly Organics Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30
Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
Babyhampton Beach Bum Sunscreen, SPF 30
Attitude Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance Free, SPF 30
All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
All Good Kid's Sunscreen, SPF 33
Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+

These best-rated products generally contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide for ultraviolet filters, which are considered stable in sunlight and offer balanced protection from UVA and UVB rays.

Good protection from the UVA spectrum is quite difficult to achieve with U.S. brands since very few components have been approved, added Lunder.

The EWG also pulled the worst-performing sunscreens for kids, finding that a couple of them are beset by many — if not all — of safety concerns. These poorly rated players had the combination of aerosol spray, high SPF and oxybenzone (a hormone disrupter) or retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A that can potentially harm skin).

The report noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not set any criteria or added requirements for sunscreens as well as other personal care products marketed to kids. This makes it more important for parents to appraise these body lotions and products more closely before slathering them on their children’s skin.

Other Sunscreen Trends And Findings

From the last decade, the EWG found a dramatic rise in mineral-only sunscreens, which doubled from 17 to 34 percent this year.

Also take note that higher isn't necessarily better: higher SPF ratings do not readily offer better protection and may lead users to spend excess time under the sun. FDA has produced capping values at 50 but is yet to finalize such rule.

Despite apparent concerns too, sunscreen spray dominates the scene, forming just under 30 percent of sunscreen products reviewed in 2016. The EWG warned against potential inhalation risks from them, along with their lack of thick, even coating on skin.

Here's how to choose and properly use sunscreen.

Photo: Anthony Kelly | Flickr

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