Many sunscreens are advertised as suitable for babies and kids, but reviewers say the only differences between these "baby" sunscreens and adult sunscreens are irritating fragrances -- and occasionally, the form of UVA protection. Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide -- mineral-based sunscreen ingredients -- are recommended by experts for babies and children because they are less irritating to sensitive skin than avobenzone. Mineral sunscreens take a little more effort to rub into skin, because they sit on top of the skin to block UV rays (as opposed to absorbing the rays the way chemical sunscreens do). However, kids (babies in particular) are likely less concerned about looking white or splotchy from mineral formulas.
All of this holds true with Best Reviewed Alba Botanica Very Emollient Sunscreen Kids Spray Broad Spectrum (Est. $12 for 4 oz.) , which relies purely on mineral active ingredients. It contains 14.5 percent zinc oxide and 2 percent titanium dioxide, both of which are gentler options for broad-spectrum protection. Very Emollient kid's sunscreen also contains beneficial ingredients, including several plant-based antioxidants, shea butter and jojoba oil. According to beauty expert Paula Beguon, the formula is great for adults and kids alike who have dry or sensitive skin, including rosacea.
On the other hand, the ultra-thick formula has its downsides. It may be too greasy for some adults, and Amazon.com reviewers say it, like many other mineral formulas, can be hard to rub in completely, leaving skin with a white film. However, the thick formula is waterproof up to 80 minutes.
In addition to having good-for-skin ingredients, Alba Botanica is also free of fragrance, parabens and artificial color, earning it a low hazard rating in Environmental Working Group's database. Beguon points out that one questionable ingredient it includes, benzyl alcohol, is below a concentration likely to cause any problems.
For those who dislike mineral formulas, Coppertone Water Babies (Est. $8.50 for 8 oz) has been recommended by pediatricians for years and is an effective sunscreen. But it may not be the best option for a baby's sensitive skin, reviewers say. That's because it relies on avobenzone and several other chemical sunscreen ingredients to provide broad-spectrum UV protection. Paula Begoun says, "The active ingredients have the potential to sting or cause other types of sensitizing reactions ...." She doesn't recommend the formula for infants or anyone else with sensitive skin.