Eczema is a common skin condition, affecting around 30 percent of the US population, mostly in children and teens. For most kids, eczema looks like red, dry, itchy patches of skin. It can also leave the skin more sensitive overall, making it vulnerable to irritants—including the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays.
This makes sunscreen for kids with eczema especially important. But what is the best sunscreen for kids with eczema? Since some skin and sun care ingredients can trigger flare-ups, understanding how to choose the right formula is key. Read on for a closer look at the best sunscreen for toddlers with sensitive skin and which ingredients to look for (and avoid) when selecting the best sunscreen for your little one.
How Does Sun Exposure Affect Eczema?
The sun can affect people with eczema differently. For some, the sun's UV rays—and the sweat they cause—can be a major eczema trigger. Sunburn also increases inflammation and damages the skin barrier, leaving skin more susceptible to environmental irritants.
For others, brief periods of sun exposure can help improve eczema symptoms. This is why phototherapy is used to treat some cases of eczema.
No matter which camp your child falls in, unprotected sun exposure can lead to skin cancer and premature aging in the future. So, wearing sunscreen regularly is important for everyone, including kids with eczema.
What Is the Best Sunscreen for Kids with Eczema?
In general, sunscreen isn't recommended for babies under six months old, so it's best to keep them out of the sun and protect them with hats, shade, and protective clothing.
When looking for sunscreen for toddlers and kids with eczema, opt for physical (or mineral) formulas, which only include the active ingredients Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. These physical blockers sit on top of the skin and act like a shield against UV rays, rather than absorbing into the skin, so they're less likely to irritate skin and trigger an eczema flare-up.
It's also important to choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays. For a formula that hits all these marks, try a sunscreen like EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+. Products labeled "sensitive skin" are typically a good choice for kids with eczema, too.
Ingredients to Avoid in Sunscreen for Toddlers with Sensitive Skin
If your child has eczema, you probably already know that certain ingredients can trigger their symptoms, and sunscreen is no exception. These ingredients can cause skin reactions, like irritant contact dermatitis and allergic contact dermatitis, that disrupt the skin barrier, cause itching and burning, and ultimately worsen eczema.
With sunscreen, it's generally best to avoid chemical blockers. Chemical sunscreen blockers—including Avobenzone, Oxybenzone, and Benzophenone 4—are more likely to cause skin reactions and trigger eczema.
Alcohol, fragrances, and preservatives can also irritate compromised skin. Avoid these ingredients whenever possible, and look for products that are specially formulated for sensitive skin.
Protecting Your Child from Head to Toe
If your child has eczema, don't skip the sunscreen. Just read labels carefully and make sure you know exactly what's going on their skin. If they have active patches of eczema, avoid sunscreen on those areas and opt to cover them with sun-protective clothing instead.
In all other cases, remember: sunscreen only works when it's used correctly. When applying sunscreen to your kids, use enough for full coverage, and don't forget areas like the ears, behind the neck, the tops of the feet, and under bathing suit straps. You'll also need to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
If traditional lotions prove too messy to use on your squirmy kid, try a sunscreen stick. Some kids may find these fun, and they can be easier to use around sensitive areas like the eyes. Top it off with a lip balm with SPF to protect their lips, like EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 36. Spending time outdoors with your kiddo will be that much better knowing their skin is calm, healthy, and protected.