Can Adults Use Kids Sunscreen? – Differences Between Baby Sunscreen Vs. Regular Sunscreen

Are you wondering if there is any difference between baby sunscreen and regular sunscreen for adults? Can you use your kids sunscreen or is it less effective? In this article I’m answering these and many more questions, so keep on reading!

Can Adults Use Kids Sunscreen?

Article by Macy Tollefson – doula, breastfeeding specialist & prenatal yoga teacher

Sun protection is so important for the whole family, but moms need to be careful when choosing sunscreen for themselves AND their children.

You’ll see sunscreens marketed for different people: adults, kids, babies, those with sensitive skin, people playing sports, people who want a tan- and everything in between. There’s mineral sunscreens, chemical ones, and a whole list of active ingredients that are hard to pronounce.

It can be so confusing to know which are the best products for you and your children’s needs. Is it necessary to carry around a different bottle for every member of your family? Can adults use kids sunscreens, and vice versa?

Keep reading to learn the difference between most kid and adult sunscreens, and which one is more beneficial!

This article is not a substitute for medical advice.

Can Adults Use Kids Sunscreen?

Yes, adults can certainly use kids sunscreen – in fact, it may be the better option.

Children’s sunscreen is typically more suitable for sensitive skin and avoids harsher chemicals in their formulas. They usually have higher SPF values and are designed to help kids not burn in the sun.

There are many different types of sunscreens marketed as the best choice for children’s skin. The good ones are:

  • Mineral based (with non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide),
  • Soothing for sensitive skin,
  • Moisturizing with natural ingredients,
  • Free from harsh chemicals,
  • And water resistant.

A healthy adult body is equipped to filter out some of the toxins and pollutants you may encounter in your daily life, but a child’s detoxifying system is not fully developed1. On top of this, kid’s skin is more absorbent and thinner than adult skin, meaning toxins will penetrate much easier.

This is why it is SO important to be choosing clean ingredients in their products.

With that being said, just because adults may be more equipped to handle harsher chemicals does NOT mean that you should be using them! There are a number of clean, safe and effective “adult” SPFs on the market.

Check out our article to see some of the best pregnancy safe sunscreens that are free from toxic ingredients.

Because not all adult creams are safe, some dermatologists recommend the whole family use baby sunscreen- even you2! As long as they are clean, safe and effective, children’s sunscreen is a great option for adult use.

Can Adults Use Kids Sunscreen?

What Is The Difference Between Baby Sunscreen Vs. Regular Sunscreen?

It is so important to protect yourself from sun damage and choose the right sunscreen- especially if you are pregnant or have a child!

There are a few differences between adult and children’s sunscreen. While both work to protect your skin from harmful the UVA and UVB rays, the ingredients will vary between product to product.

Sunscreen marketed towards children tends to:

  • Have less irritants,
  • Be mineral based,
  • Have a higher SPF.

The main difference between kids and adult sunscreen really comes down to the addition of potential irritants3. Most adult sunscreens that you find in the drugstore are CHEMICAL sunscreens, which means they are made up of UV absorbing ingredients like oxybenzone and avobenzone. These chemicals not only damage the environment, but they are also toxic for your body4.

Babies have much more absorbent and sensitive skin, so it’s important that the sunscreen you use on them is free from the harmful chemicals that may cause irritation.

For this reason, many children’s options are MINERAL sunscreen, which means they sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays off of the body. These sunscreens are often made from non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide- two compounds that are SAFE and do not absorb into your body.

And finally, children’s sunscreens tend to have higher SPF values, for added protection. Even if you are an adult, you can always benefit from the added protection of a higher SPF value cream.

What Is Special About Baby Sunscreen?

Most baby sunblock on the market provides broad spectrum protection (like adult creams) while also nurturing their sensitive, delicate skin.

Most of them are mineral sunscreens. Because a mineral sunscreen cannot be absorbed into the skin (like typical adult chemical ones), they often leave a white cast, to show you exactly where is has been applied. This is extremely helpful when you are trying to apply enough cream on a wiggling toddler!

With that being said, some sunscreen’s marketed for children are NOT as safe. You will find sunscreens being marketed for children that contain chemical blockers and other toxins- so always be sure to read the ingredients!

Check out my article: Non-Toxic Baby Sunscreen to see some of my favorites.

Can I Use Regular Sunscreen On My Baby?

Is Baby Sunscreen Better For Adults?

Because baby versions of mineral sunscreen tend to have less irritants and higher SPFs, I would argue that they could be the safest choice for adults!

Many children’s sunscreens protect them from the sun’s rays, while simultaneously moisturizing and caring for their delicate skin. Products that are catered for sensitive skin usually have limited fragrance, are moisturizing and non-irritating. Baby sunblock also tends to follow this criteria.

Tip: For added assurance, look for children’s products that are dermatologist or paediatrician recommended!

Regardless of if you have sensitive skin or not, baby sunscreen can be very beneficial for personal use. They can be a good addition to your skincare routine, especially if you are looking for an SPF that won’t irritate your face.

Is Baby Sunscreen Less Effective?

No, baby screen is just as effective as adult sunscreen.

The effectiveness of a sunscreen really comes down to the SPF value, and children’s sunscreen tends to have higher numbers. Although sunblock for children may have added benefits (such as moisturizing ingredients or no added fragrance), an adult SPF 30 will be just as effective as a kids SPF 30.

It is recommended to use a minimum of SPF 30 on adult skin, but children need more protection, as their skin is more delicate. For comparison, SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays, while SPF 50 blocks 98%.

Regardless of the SPF number, you should always reapply sunscreen often, wear hats, cover up and stay out of the sun as much as possible.

What Is Special About Baby Sunscreen?

Can I Use Regular Sunscreen On My Baby?

So, if adults can use kids sunscreen, can babies use the same one as adults?

The answer is – it depends.

If the adult sunscreen is chemical based or contains other irritants, it’s best to avoid using it on your children. These types of creams can cause irritation and allow toxins to absorb into their growing bodies.

The typical adult sunblock found in drugstores (think: Coppertone, Banana Boat or Hawaiian Tropic) are full of harmful synthetic ingredients such as chemical blockers, preservatives, dyes, and fragrances. All of these are not beneficial or even healthy for kid’s skin- in fact they’re not healthy for adult skin either!

In order to be suitable for children’s skin, the adult sunscreen should be:

  • Mineral based (with non-nano zinc oxide or titanium dioxide),
  • Free from chemical blockers,
  • Free from toxins or harsh chemicals,
  • Be SPF 30 or higher.

Keep in mind that you should NOT apply sunscreen to babies under the age of 6 months. Instead, they should wear protective clothing and be kept in the shade or out of direct sunlight entirely.

Medically Reviewed By Macy Tollefson

Macy Tollefson is a full spectrum doula, breastfeeding specialist and prenatal yoga teacher. She is passionate about guiding the modern mama on her journey through the beautiful (and wild) transformation of pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Macy envisions a world where every mother has access to the resources she needs, and follows her intuition to make the best decisions about what is right for her and her baby.

The purpose of this article is informative. It’s not a substitute for professional medical advice or medical care. Remember: safety first! Consult your doctor/pediatrician in case of any doubts. The author of this article does not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here.


About Me - Zooey BarnettHello Moms! I am Zooey. I am a wife and a mother of three amazing kids: almost 5-year-old Haley and 2-year-old twins Jesse and Matthew. I am a jogger, cooker and blogger.

If you have a question or a comment, do not hesitate to write to me! 🙂

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