We carry out our tests ourselves and test all products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our test, we asked ordinary families to use different sun creams and compare their properties against each other. The sun creams were used in everyday life during ordinary outdoor play in the garden, at preschool or in the park. They were also used during the peak summer period, whilst swimming in the sea or a pool and during different sweaty activities.
Use: How easy is the sun cream to apply, is it easily absorbed by the skin and does the format allow for good portioning of the cream?
Stickiness: To what extent is the sun cream perceived as sticky, and how quickly does the cream penetrate the skin? Does the sun cream leave stains on clothes and other objects?
Durability: How long does the sun cream last and how is a layer of sun cream affected by swimming, playing and other types of wear?
The families evaluated the sun creams for children based on the above criteria and also compared this to the price of the product. Our score is based on the overall experience of the product in relationship to its price.
Sun protection: SPF 30 Size: 150 ml Shelf life: Not specified
The spray bottle this sun cream comes in is cleverly designed so air can’t enter, which means the cream can’t turn rancid but stays fresh until it runs out. The spray is a bit wild and uncontrolled, but the mousse that comes out is fanatically easy to work with, is directly absorbed by the skin and is pretty much not sticky at all.
It’s easy to get an even layer over the whole of the child's body and to gradually portion out the cream. The sun cream remains as a protective layer despite wear or swimming, without producing a white film. According to the manufacturer, the protection should last for 6 hours and that may very well be true. Evy Sunscreen Mousse Kids is a high quality sun cream for children that’s also available in SPF50.
High quality sun cream that’s easy to apply, doesn’t leave a white film and is good for sensitive skin
Sun protection: SPF 50+ Size: 250 ml Shelf life: 12 months
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Wet Skin feels a bit like the Rolls-Royce of sun creams. It’s unscented, suitable for sensitive skin, has a high sun protection factor and is even extra resistant to water and sand. It can be applied to both dry and wet skin, making it easy to reapply regularly during a long day at the beach. The consistency is superb; just thick enough to stay where you've squeezed it out but thin enough to be easily massaged into the skin. Once applied, the cream stays put. It also gets extra praise for the colour tone being a faint mother of pearl, which means it doesn’t form a white film on the skin. After you’ve applied the cream, you need to wash your hands quickly to remove all the cream from your palms – but then the fact that it soaks in so easily just goes to show how good La Roche-Posay Anthelios Wet Skin really is. Despite a slightly higher price, it certainly feels worth every penny.
Sun protection: SPF 50+ Size: 50 ml Shelf life: 6 months from opening
Eco Cosmetics’ sun cream for children is really good for sun protection. The SPF is high, the cream is easily applied to the skin and seems to offer a good protective barrier. Organically certified, Eco Cosmetics Baby & Kids consists of physical filters that actually settle on top of the skin and reflect away the harmful rays from the sun. The sun cream works well on the beach, as it withstands very water well and so isn’t washed away immediately after a dip. The disadvantage of this product is that the cream is very sticky and adheres to everything, so not only will the kids be covered in it, but so will your clothes, phone, watch, your sunglasses and just about everything else you touch for at least half an hour after putting it on the children. If the sun protection hadn’t been so effective, the stickiness would be a big minus, but as it stands maybe it’s actually worth getting white patches on all your summer clothes.
Very good, easy to apply, non-sticky sun cream in a large tube
Sun protection: SPF 50 Size: 300 ml Shelf life: 12 months
Vichy Idéal Soleil Sun Lotion Children comes in a really large tube, which fits very well with the manufacturer's recommendation to cover your kids with plenty of sun cream. The texture of the sun cream is wonderful and easy to work into the skin yet doesn’t feel watery. Once it’s been rubbed in and allowed to dry, which takes less than a minute, it then protects the skin and isn’t at all sticky. The one small disadvantage is that you have to be quick to wash your own hands if you don’t want to get grease all over your phone or whatever else you want to hold shortly after use. Vichy Idéal Soleil Sun Lotion Children is perfume-free and contains no parabens, and just feels like a really good value sun cream.
Sun cream for children in a cleverly designed spray bottle, which also works on sensitive skin
Sun protection: SPF 50+ Size: 200 ml Shelf life: 12 months
Nivea's Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun comes in two different forms – as a lotion and a spray. The spray bottle has a clever design with deeply ribbed sides. Once you’ve applied the sun cream to your children, and your hands are slippery, it’s those same grooves that enable you to keep a good one-handed grip on the bottle. The spray itself is good and with a good concentration – the sun cream ends up where you aim. The cream is easy to apply, but it should be done sometime before putting your child in a car or pushchair, because it takes some time for the cream to be absorbed and stop rubbing off. Once absorbed, the cream works well even whilst swimming, but a new layer must be applied after the child has been in the water. Nivea state that the cream is free of perfume, dyes and preservatives and is therefore suitable for sensitive skin. When we tested the cream on a child with moderately severe eczema, no reaction occurred on that particular child. Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Spray is a good value and, thanks to the bottle, easy-to-use sun cream.
Sun spray with lockable nozzle
Sun protection: SPF 50 Size: 200 ml Shelf life: 12 months
Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Sensitive Advanced comes in a robust spray bottle with a nozzle similar to a plant spray. This is far from being a precision tool and it’s best used either by first protecting floors and furniture around the application point or, better still, outdoors.
The nozzle distributes the spray over half the room, but at the same time (fortunately) also manages to hit the body. To ensure the correct amount is used, two applications with a period of drying time in between are recommended. So what initially appears to be an efficient way of applying sun cream actually takes a good bit more time than you might have expected.
Once done, however, the cream is quickly absorbed by the skin. But it does leave some white residue on dark clothes, and some yellowish stains on white clothes.
One plus is that the handle on the spray has a locking mechanism. If you fold out the small black lever, you won’t end up with a beach bag full of sun spray should the handle get knocked during the trip. This is very useful.
This is an effective sun spray, but really lacks a more precise spray function. The sun cream does its job well, once you get it on the skin.
Sun cream for children in the form of a lotion, easy to get out of the bottle and can withstand play in water
Sun protection: SPF 50+ Size: 200 ml Shelf life: 12 months
Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Lotion has a highly effective UVA protection and is, according to Nivea, dermatologically tested to suit even sensitive skin. When we applied the lotion to a child with skin problems, no negative reaction occurred. The formula doesn’t contain perfume, preservatives or dyes. According to the manufacturer, their Sun Lotion should be extra water-resistant and our experience is that it can actually withstand a lot of dips. On a long day at the beach, you should still apply several times to ensure that the sun protection is intact. This is another sun cream that gets quite sticky. Until the lotion has been absorbed, it can leave white, greasy spots on everything the child touches. Although the drying time is a small minus, Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Lotion feels effective and well adapted for a child who will be playing or swimming.
Children have sensitive skin and need extra protection from the sun's rays. The sun itself isn’t harmful and children need a certain amount of sunshine on their skin for the body to be able to form vitamin D, which is very important for health. But too much sun can lead to burning, and getting burns as a child increases the risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood. So as a parent it’s important to act preventively, with effective sun protection. In terms of sun protection, the best thing for children is clothing that covers as much of the body as possible, not forgetting a sun hat or other protection for the head. Children's skin is so thin that very young children, under one year of age, should ideally never be in direct sunlight at all, and especially not during the middle of the day when the sun is strongest. For those parts of the body that can’t be dressed, however, sun cream is a necessary complement.
For children over one year, a sun cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 and preferably higher is recommended. Many sun creams for children have a sun protection factor of 50 or 50+. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and is an indication of how much longer you can stay in the sun, wearing the sun cream, than you could have done without it. Sun creams are divided into four different categories based on their sun protection factor, where 6-10 is low, 15-25 is medium, 30-50 is high and an SPF of 50+ is very high protection.
One common mistake that many people make is to use too little sun cream. A normal-sized bottle shouldn’t not last a whole summer. Each time you apply cream to a child of primary school age, you need approximately 30 ml to provide a sufficiently good layer for the entire body. A teenager requires a little more cream, a preschool child a little less. After swimming, or after a few hours of play in the sun, the protective layer also needs to be topped up with additional cream. It’s important to apply cream to all the skin and not forget things like the neck, ears, lips and so forth.
We chose sun creams for children with a high SPF and then tested them to see how easy they were to apply and how children felt about them. We didn’t test the sun cream's actual SPF, as this wasn’t a clinical test but one that instead focuses on use. We report the sun cream manufacturers' description of how the protection is constructed – whether it’s a physical or chemical filter. Finally, the sun cream's perceived functions and properties are compared to the price of the product.
For more information on how a sun cream works, and different types of sun cream, you can read our test of sun cream for adults.
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