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). It's important to note that formulas marketed to children are also suitable for adults with sensitive skin.
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.
Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunscreen Kids Mineral Broad Spectrum SPF 30 (Est. $11 for 4 oz.) , on the other hand, relies on purely mineral active ingredients. It contains 14.5 percent zinc oxide and two percent titanium dioxide, both of which are gentler options for broad-spectrum protection. Very Emollient Kids sunscreen also contains beneficial ingredients, including several plant-based antioxidants, shea butter and jojoba oil. It's also free of fragrance, parabens and artificial color. Coppertone Water Babies contains a very small amount of vitamin E but it also contains fragrance (a common irritant) and parabens.
Users at Amazon.com say Alba Botanica leaves their skin soft and smooth. It's very moisturizing but, as with most mineral sunscreens, it's very thick and takes a while to rub it in completely. Some say the formula is greasy and leaves a bit of a white cast on skin. Water Babies sunscreen has a thinner texture and rubs in to skin easily. Users say that it isn't overly greasy and is lightly moisturizing.
Of the two sunscreens, Coppertone Water Babies is easier to apply, goes on smoother and takes less time to rub in. But it isn't as gentle as Alba Botanica Kids sunscreen and it doesn't have as many good-for-skin ingredients. For this reason, Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Kids Mineral Protection is our Best Reviewed product.