Sunscreen is an essential weapon in the battle against skin cancer. Cancer Research UK tells us that UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. Skin cancer can be fatal and is around 86% preventable. Skin damage can cause pain, redness, ageing and blistering. The ultraviolet light in sunlight damages the DNA in the skin cells. This damage can happen years before a cancer develops.
They state that, along with avoiding the main heat of the day, staying in the shade, wearing a hat and loose clothing, you should apply sunscreen regularly.
Cancer Research UK recommend buying sunscreens with a:
- ‘Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 (UVB protection)
- High star rating with at least 4 stars (UVA protection)‘
Tips for using sunscreen properly:
No sunscreen will give the protection it claims unless you apply it properly.
- Make sure you put enough sunscreen on – you need to cover yourself and your child thoroughly.
- Reapply sunscreen regularly including ‘once a day’ and ‘water resistant’ products. Sunscreen can rub or wash off, especially after swimming or towelling dry.
- Use sunscreen together with shade and clothing to avoiding sunburn.
- Don’t be tempted to spend longer in the sun just because you have sunscreen on.
- Don’t store sunscreens in very hot places because this can ruin their protective chemicals.
- Don’t forget to check the expiry date on your sunscreen. Most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years, shown on the label by a symbol of a pot with the letter M and a number – this is the number of months the sunscreen will last once it’s been opened. Check your sunscreen has not expired before you use it.
Does the brand of sunscreen make a difference?
Cancer Research UK states ‘(we do not) endorse any specific brand of sunscreens. All sunscreens use the same methods to determine how protective they are. This means that brand and price are less important than things like the SPF and star ratings, which tell you how much protection they offer.’ (Read more here.)
With all this in mind, we asked MGF Mums and Dads to review the suncreens that they use on their own children.
Factor: SPF 30
UVA / UVB Protection: Offers 97% UVB protection (the rays that cause burning)
Price: £14.95 – £18.50 for 150ml
How did it feel on your child? R: It’s quite thick but smooth and not sticky. M: It feels a little ‘wet’ but sinks in to the skin quickly and doesn’t leave skin sticky or greasy.
How easily could you apply it? R: Easy to apply but need to be aware that it will leave a white sheen to the skin. M:Very easily, I found applying it liberally made it easier to apply. The maker recommends applying 20 minutes before sun exposure but that can be tricky to remember!
How often did you have to reapply it? R: Reapply every couple of hours and again after waterspouts. M: I reapply if it has been more than 2-3 hours in sun.
Did your child react to it? R: No! It’s the only sunscreen I’ve found that doesn’t bring my child out in hives. M: No reaction whatsoever.
What did you like about it? R: That my child isn’t allergic to it, it’s free of ‘nasties’ including gluten, parabens and lanolin. M: I like knowing that the cream uses 97% organic ingredients, is scent free, works hard to protect my son against the UVB rays as well as not including any parabens and other beauty nasties.
What did you dislike about it? R: Not so keen on the price. M: The price tag – but I try to buy all organic toiletries for my family so am used to paying that bit more.
Reviewed by: Rebecca – kids aged 11, 8 and Melody – baby aged 5.5m
UVA / UVB Protection: 4* UVA
How did it feel on your child? Sara: Needed to apply lots but once it had sunk in it didn’t leave a greasy residue. Sam: The spray dries very quickly into the skin and does not feel heavy or clammy in the heat. As it is oil based your skin looks well hydrated and feels soft to the touch!
How easily could you apply it? Sara: Very, it comes in a spray bottle. Sam: It is easy to apply for both baby and adults – for adults you can spray the clear sunscreen straight onto the skin and rub in. For babies it’s easier to spray onto your hands and then rub onto baby.
How often did you have to reapply it? Sara: It was a once-a-day lotion and despite having red haired children it did the job in 30 degrees. Sam: The fact that it is once a day makes it much easier as I think if I had to keep reapplying my son may get a bit fed up of being pulled around!
Did your child react to it? Sara: Not at all, but my children do not have sensitive skin. Sam: He also has fairly sensitive skin and I haven’t found this to be a problem at all.
What did you like about it? Sara: It’s only a once a day application, which means less chasing slippery reluctant children around the swimming pool every time they get out of the water! Sam: I like that it is waterproof and that you only have to apply it once. I’ve used it as an adult in the Maldives in direct sun and in and out of the water all day with no need to continually reapply. It offers great sun protection for all!
What did you dislike about it? Sara: It does stain clothes. Some people may dislike it because it has to be applied about 20 minutes before sun exposure but we just put it on before breakfast or dressing, then once we had eaten the time limit was more than up. Sam: It doesn’t taste the best while ‘wet’, so make sure you don’t put your hands straight in your mouth before it has dried into your skin! I think the price is fairly expensive but considering you only need to apply once a day I have found it goes very far; I’d say it was great value for money.
They say: ‘Lotion, pump spray or continuous spray, P20 sun protection gives you up to 10 hours reliable sun protection with just one application.‘
Reviewed by: Sara – kids aged 9, 4 and 1. They all wore it (as did my practically albino husband!) and Sam – baby aged 9m.
UVA / UVB Protection: 5* UVA, plus new sun filter Tinosorb A2B
Price: £8 for a pack of 2 200ml tubes.
How did it feel on your child? Like any fairly thick moisturiser when first applied but very easily absorbed. No residue.
How easily could you apply it? Very easily. Kids tolerated it!
How often did you have to reapply it? Just reapplied frequently per usual advice.
Did your child react to it? No. Hypoallergenic, fragrance free, non-comedogenic.
What did you like about it? Such good value for money – the knowledge that this is a high quality sunscreen developed by skin cancer specialists and scientists. For adults and children.
What did you dislike about it? Nothing!
They say: ‘Top quality sunscreen at an affordable price through reducing profit margins and unnecessary marketing costs. So you can use more and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.’
Reviewed by: Anna – kids aged 4 and 2.
UVA / UVB Protection: High PA+++
How did it feel on your child? Smooth, rubbed in nicely.
How easily could you apply it? With ease, like any other cream.
How often did you have to reapply it? I reapplied every 2 hours (one child is a red head so burns easily).
Did your child react to it? My two daughters had no reaction but my baby boy did, he has eczema.
What did you like about it? Smells nice and leaves skin feeling soft.
What did you dislike about it? Would prefer a spray bottle for quick application.
They say: ‘Mild and gentle, SPF50, orange coloured, water-resistant sun cream. Provides UVA/UVB protection with Derma 360° Technology. Suitable for face and body.’
Reviewed by: Lucy.
Name of Cream: Ultrasun Sports Spray (note that there is a complete range of Ultrasun products including Family SPF30, Extreme SPF50, Face SPF30 or 50, Face Tinted SPF30, Sports gel SPF20 or 30, Glimmer SPF20 or 30, tan activator SPF30, hand SPF30, lip SPF30 and aftersun).
Factor: Available in SPF 30 or SPF50 (I am reviewing the SPF50)
UVA / UVB Protection: Offers both UVA and UVB protection.
Price: £26 for 150ml.
How did it feel on your child? It is absorbed quickly so it does not feel sticky.
How easily could you apply it? It is very easy to apply. You just spray it on. I tend to then rub it in to make sure all skin is covered but you could just spray and leave if you didn’t want to get it all over your hands. It is not a cream so does not need to be rubbed in. For the face I spray it into my hands and then apply (or use Ultrasun Face SPF50).
How often did you have to reapply it? According to the instructions you should apply the spray 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Ultrasound state it can be applied once a day, though you should reapply after extensive sweating, swimming or towel drying. I tend to apply it twice a day, as I am concerned that if you miss a spot in the first application it will go all day without protection.
Did your child react to it? No. I have sensitive skin prone to eczema and prickly heat and I’ve never had a problem with this sun spray.
What did you like about it? The pump is very easy to use and my 4 year old sun can spray himself (the pump seems to be able to operate when the bottle is upside down). My son used to scream the house down when sun lotion was applied. This is so quick that even he will stay still long enough to have it applied. It is so quick and you can get away with only doing it once a day. The once a day application is great for school days (when they will not apply lotion at school) and also when they are in and out of the water. It is so easy to use. There are no yellow marks on clothes. It is 0% perfume. It is also great for bald spots as you just need to spray and leave it – but this is less applicable to children!
What did you dislike about it?
Nothing apart from it is expensive, but it is worth every penny, and you can sometimes find it on deals (3 or 2).
Reviewed by: Holly – kid aged 5.
UVA / UVB Protection: UVA – 5 stars ‘ultra highest rating’.
How did it feel on your child? Once rubbed in feels like they have nothing on.
How easily could you apply it? Really easy to apply as it’s a spray bottle.
How often did you have to reapply it? On the bottle says 1-2 hours but I’ve always done it every hour as my daughter is really fair.
Did your child react to it? This is the only sun cream so far that my daughter hasn’t reacted to and she’s got really dry skin and eczema.
What did you like about it? It’s good value for money and didn’t react to my daughters skin. I also feel like the bottle can go on for ever and ever.
What did you dislike about it? Nothing to not like.
They say: ‘Specially formulated for your child’s vulnerable skin, this easily-absorbed spray provides continuous moisturisation, helping to reduce dryness. All Soltan sun products have been awarded a maximum five-star rating against deep-down skin damage caused by UVA rays.’
Reviewed by: Helen – kid aged 21m .
UVA / UVB Protection: 4 Stars.
How did it feel on your child? Not oily or sticky, absorbed well.
How easily could you apply it? Very.
How often did you have to reapply it? On two occasions in water or just once a day if no water activity.
Did your child react to it? No.
What did you like about it? Smell, effectiveness and feel.
What did you dislike about it? Nothing.
They say: ‘Happy Baby, Worry-free Mom and Dad! Baby Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50+ Lotion lets your baby* comfortably smile into the warmth of the sun. No stinging, no tearing!’
Reviewed by: Laura – kids aged 4 and 2.5.
UVA / UVB Protection: Bottle states ‘UVA & UVB Broad Spectrum – UVA 4* – ‘superior’.
Price: Got on prescription from the Dr for my child who reacted to all other brands I tried.
How did it feel on your child? Wonderful, soaked in immediately with no stickiness.
How easily could you apply it? Very thin and milky so easy to rub in but quite runny.
How often did you have to reapply it? Every few hours and after water play.
Did your child react to it? None of the children had any reaction.
What did you like about it? Skin feels like it has no cream on so no clammy, sweaty children. They are much more comfortable at home and at school. No staining.
What did you dislike about it? It is odourless so I missed that gorgeous ‘suntan cream’ smell.
They say: ‘A light, smooth, easy-to-apply high factor sun cream for children and adults providing SPF 50+ protection with 4 hours water resistance. ‘
Reviewed by: Helen – kids aged 9, 7, 4, 5m.
Factor: 20 / 30 / 50
UVA / UVB Protection: Yes, both.
How did it feel on your child? Once applied it dries within minutes.
How easily could you apply it? It has the consistency of a hand sanitising gel so rubs in incredibly easy.
How often did you have to reapply it? It’s a ‘once a day’ application but I tended to reapply after lunch.
Did your child react to it? No reaction whatsoever.
What did you like about it? I love the fact that my children never burnt even after being in the pool for ours on end. I also love how easy it is to apply.
What did you dislike about it? There’s nothing I don’t like about it..!
They say: ‘Our Once a Day Sunscreen only needs to be applied to the skin once and protects you all day long. The water-resistant formula provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. The range consists of five products ranging from SPF10 to SPF50+ and we recommend our Once a Day SPF40 for kids as it is suitable for their delicate skin.’
Reviewed by: Elaine – kids aged 13 and 16 but has been using Calypso for the past 5 years.
UVA / UVB Protection: Yes, both.
Price: £7-11 (Ocado normally have it discounted!)
How did it feel on your child? Dries quickly and doesn’t feel too greasy. Doesn’t leave white marks either.
How easily could you apply it? Very. I don’t like the spray ones as I’ve heard they’re bad to inhale so this is a traditional rub on until disappeared formula!
How often did you have to reapply it? We normally applied a couple of times a day on holiday and extra post swimming of course
Did your child react to it? Not at all on either child or the adults!
What did you like about it? The smell is incredible! Holiday in a bottle! I liked that I could use it on the entire family, adults included without feeling like anyone was getting short changed! Seemed to offer great protection and be natural/kind to the environment but way better than the natural baby zinc formulas I’ve tried before
What did you dislike about it? None, although make sure you buy exactly the 45 sun kids one as the family 30, baby and sports are slightly different compositions and not as good to my mind!
They say: ‘Specially formulated for your child’s tender skin and water-resistant formula provides long-lasting solar defense. Infused with Chamomile and Calendula Extracts, it gently pampers your child’s sensitive skin while protecting skin from harsh elements. Now you can let your child run, play and enjoy the sun without worry.’
Reviewed by: Lorna – kids aged 4 and 18m.
UVA / UVB Protection: ‘EU Compliant / Immediate protection.’
How did it feel on your child? It felt quite sticky and clammy.
How easily could you apply it? It’s quite thick but smooth to apply.
How often did you have to reapply it? Every few hours and after water play.
Did your child react to it? All the children came out in a heat / sweat rash. I think because the cream was so clammy, their skin couldn’t breathe.
What did you like about it? It made them smell like warm toast.
What did you dislike about it? Continued to feel sticky and sweaty even after an hour. Seemed to just sit on the surface of the skin.
They say: ‘NIVEA SUN products contain highly effective UVA/UVB filters for immediate protection and are suitable for all skin types.’
Reviewed by: Louis – kids aged 9, 7, 4, 5m.
Reviewed by: Louise – kids aged 6 and 10.