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Are Sunscreens for Kids and Babies Different from Adult Ones?

by kelly / June, 3 2020 01:30

Baby standing and holding him or herself up on a stool

Have you ever picked up a baby branded sunscreen and wondered if you could use it on your skin? Or have you only had a sunscreen not branded baby or kids on hand and wondered if you could use it on your little one? The answer is generally yes, you can use an adult sunscreen on kids and vice versa. Here’s why…

FDA Doesn’t Regulate Adult vs. Children Sunscreen Differently

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) the government organization that oversees all SPF products (including sunscreen) doesn’t regulate sunscreens marketed for children differently than sunscreens marketed for adults. Sunscreens for children, babies, and adults must pass the same testing criteria for safety and effectiveness and they have the same ingredient requirements.

What’s this mean? Well, all sunscreens (and any SPF product) sold in the US must pass two types of testing no matter what the bottle says – baby, kids, adults, makeup with SPF, moisturizer with SPF, and so on. The two tests are SPF testing which measures UVB protection and is needed to determine the product’s SPF level and broad spectrum testing which measures UVA protection. These tests and the requirements to pass them, are the same whether your target consumers are adults or kids.

Sunscreen Ingredients Do Make A Difference

Of course that doesn’t mean all sunscreens are the same. The ingredients brands choose make a difference. Any SPF product - regardless of what it says on the front label - can use any of the FDA approved sunscreen active ingredients but some of the ingredients are considered less irritating than others.

For example, sunscreen labeled for babies and kids may be less irritating to delicate and sensitive skin because they often use the mineral UV filters zinc and/or titanium instead of chemical filters. Dermatologists often recommend mineral only sunblocks for sensitive skin which can be an issue for both babies and adults. Looking for a baby branded sunscreen isn’t foolproof though as many baby branded ones are not mineral-only (if mineral at all) and many non-baby branded ones are 100% mineral. For example, our sunscreens are mineral only even though we don’t brand them “baby”.

So how do you tell? Flip the bottle over and look at the drug facts panel. All SPF products are required to have a drug facts panel on the outermost packaging (the bottle if that’s all there is, the box if the bottle comes in a box, and so on). On this panel you’ll find a list of “active ingredients”. You want to make sure that section only lists zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Anything else listed there is a chemical UV filter.

One other thing to add is that many sunscreens for children don’t use heavy artificial fragrances. This can be true of non-baby branded sunscreens too. Again, the way to tell is to look at the drug facts panel. There will also be a section called “other ingredients” and you want to make sure it doesn’t list anything called “fragrance”. This isn’t foolproof as other listed ingredients might be the fragrance but it’s a good way to start.

If that all sounds like too much, an easy thing to do is to check out our sunscreens. They are mineral only and fragrance free if you’re looking for a sunscreen that works gently.

Sunscreen Smarts

There you have it – you can reach for your kid’s sunscreen next time you run out or simply bring one bottle out with you to the beach (just make sure it has enough sunscreen in it to cover you for your time at the beach).

Our recommendation is to always check the ingredient label before you buy a sunscreen to make sure you’re comfortable with the ingredients regardless of how it’s marketed.

If you want more sunscreen buying tips check out our Suncare Smarts or Sunscreen and Sunblock blog series.

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