11 Kids’ Sunscreens to Avoid This Summer (and 6 Safe Alternatives)


The Environmental Working Group has released its 2015 Summer Sunscreen Guide — and with it some pretty shocking results about the the safety and effectiveness of the products we use to protect our kids.

A whopping 80 percent of U.S. sun protection products analyzed by EWG this year contain harmful ingredients or offer inadequate protection against dangerous ultraviolet radiation — or both.

EWG scrutinized 1,700 products, including sunscreens, SPF-rated moisturizers and lip balms, to compile this year’s 2015 Guide to Sunscreens. The easy-to-use interactive tool highlights the best and worst products and offers a host of tips to help shoppers find better options.

“Our research confirms that not all sunscreens are created equal,” said Dave Andrews, senior scientist at EWG. “Many products do not provide enough UVA protection.  Some contain hazardous chemicals such as the hormone disruptor oxybenzone or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A linked to skin damage. Shoppers who use our guide can find sunscreens that are not only more effective but safer for themselves and their family.”

More than 30 products landed in EWG’s 2015 Sunscreen Hall of Shame because of potentially toxic ingredients, inhalation risks from sprays and excessive SPF claims.

So which products does the EWG recommend that you avoid this summer? Surprisingly, these products come from some very recognizable brands.

The 11 Kids’ Sunscreens that Topped the “Worst” List

    1. Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 110
    2. Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
    3. Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
    4. Coppertone Kids Wacky Foam Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70+
    5. Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
    6. Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
    7. Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
    8. Kroger Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
    9. Kroger Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
    10. Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Beach & Pool Sunblock Spray, SPF 70+
    11. Up & Up Kid’s Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55

The EWG used a wide variety of criteria to determine which sunscreens are safe and which are not — including the addition of particularly dangerous ingredients such as Oxybenzone and Retinyl Palmitate. One particular brand really stood out.

Neutrogena products raised an unusual number of flags in EWG’s review because of the brand’s egregious marketing. It markets itself as the “#1 dermatologist recommended suncare brand.” Yet EWG has given most of the Neutrogena’s products it analyzed a failing grade.

“It is really quite astonishing how Neutrogena attempts to deceive shoppers with ad hype in order to sell potentially harmful products,” said Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst. “We’ve turned a spotlight on bad actors like Neutrogena, but so much more needs to be done to stop companies from getting away with hyping their products at the expense of consumer health.”

EWG found that Neutrogena’s allegedly hypoallergenic “pure & free baby” sunscreen lotion actually contains a potent skin allergen.

You can find a full breakdown of their research, as well as products to avoid in other sunscreen categories, here.

Luckily, there are some brands that are safe for our little ones and EWG has compiled a very helpful guide to help you find them. The 2015 Sunscreen Guide includes important information on how to read product labels, identify potential hazards and avoid getting burned. Shoppers on the go can download EWG’s Skin Deep mobile barcode scanning app to get ratings and safety information on sunscreens and other cosmetics products right at their fingertips.

6 Sunscreens for Kids That Are Safe to Use This Summer

Note: a lower score is better on EWG’s site, so look for sunscreens with a 0-2 when possible. Follow the links for the full breakdown of each product.

    1. Adorable Baby Clear Baby Sunscreen Stick and Lotion, SPF 30+, EWG Score 1
    2. All Terrain KidSport Face Stick, SPF 28, EWG Score 1
    3. Seventh Generation Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30, EWG Score 1
    4. Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50+, EWG Score 1
    5. California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen Lotion and Year-Round Stick, SPF 30+, EWG Score 1
    6. Goddess Garden Kids Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30, EWG Score 1

To research more options, or to see the rating for your current sunscreen, look here.

Image:  St. Pete/Clearwater

21 thoughts on “11 Kids’ Sunscreens to Avoid This Summer (and 6 Safe Alternatives)”

    1. The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 gets a 1 from EWG and it’s not too expensive. It’s also sold at Costco cheaper than other stores. We have been using it this summer and it works pretty well, but you definitely need to reapply more often than most sunscreens.

      1. We have been using the The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 this past month and it works great. It also leaves less of a white film on your skin than most of the other healthier brands we have tried (give all of these zinc based lotions a good 15-20 minutes to soak in before most of the haze goes away). However, the Honest Suncreen does leave a shiny film that feels heavy on your skin until you wash it off. I am not a huge fan of this. I think I prefer to see a little more white but have a lighter feel myself. (For the kids I like less white in pictures..for that the Honest Sunscreen has been nice.)

        Our old time favorite product is Blue Lizard Austrailian Sunscreen Baby. Here is a link where you can read all about what is unique to their sunscreen (http://www.bluelizard.net/products/sunscreen-baby-5oz). I LOVE the color changing bottle that lets you know the UV rays are out. It has really helped my kids, ages 8, 6, and 4, to agree that they need to wear it – even on cloudy days. We buy it on auto-ship from Amazon.

        Lastly, to further protect us all and save money: wear long sleeve rash guards. By mid June each year you can get REALLY high quality, cute, lined ones at Gymboree for a steal (like $6 each). They have finally started carrying long sleeved models for girls. For women, they have very nice ones at Athleta (not cheap but soooo cute) and more affordable ones at Lands End. For men I found one by the Kanu brand on Amazon for $19. We buy far less sunscreen thanks to our rash guards. For our family, we have saved a lot of money and have been able to use the healthier (often pricier) sunscreens as a result.

        Our kids have NEVER had sunburns using either of the lotions mentioned above (apply per product guidelines) or under their rash guards.

        1. Thanks for the information about rash guards. I think wearing long sleeve is the best way to protect your skin and is much more effective and safer than any sunscreen lotion.

  1. What are the EWG ratings for the “worst” you have listed. Without that information we can’t make a comparison for ourselves.

  2. We use Bare Belly Organics and we love it. EWG rates it a 1, plus – unlike lots of the others – it isn’t at all pasty and really easy to put on. My kids LOVE their body stick!

  3. Which 0-2 sunscreens are tear free? Right now we use coppertone water babies PURE AND SIMPLE which we love because it’s tear free but it also has a rating of 3. There’s 84 baby sunscreens listed but i don’t see any 0-2 that are tear free.

    1. I was told by the skincare expert at my local co-op grocery that at least for shampoos, “tear free” items contain analgesics. So it’s not that the ingredients are so pure they won’t hurt your eyes; the added analgesics keep your eyes from responding normally to chemical intrusion.

      I use stick sunscreens on my kids’ faces and that works pretty well, though I always worry I’m missing spots. I hope you find something that works for you!

    2. we use the pure and simple as well, and also Babyganics. I’m on a tight budget and buy the best I can afford, so for me I’m comfortable with a rating of 3 or lower. I’ve not had my kiddos complain of the pure and simple Coppertone in their eyes, we’ve been pretty happy with it too :)

  4. Has anyone else tried using the California Babies sunblock? It’s terrible! It doesn’t rub in and leaves you and/or your kid looking literally pasty. And it’s impossible to get off of clothes you’ve accidentally bumped with your shiny white-painted hands while attempting to rub this stuff into skin. It may be rated well by the ingredients, but in execution it’s our last resort in this house due to usability.

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