Can Adults Use Kids Sunscreen?

Some adults may believe that their children do not need sunscreen. But this is the furthest thing from the truth. Children ages six and up need to use sunscreen and in some cases, even babies. And while the differences between children and adult sunscreen are minimal it is important to note that sunscreen for children tends to be mineral-based. But the truth is adults and children CAN use the same sunscreen. Medical Doctor, Wendy Engelman spoke candidly on this stating, “You absolutely do not need to buy separate formulas for different members of the family. In fact, I often tell my patients to buy baby versions for their personal use.” So what does that mean?

Because mineral-based sunscreens can be less irritating to the skin it is generally safe for both adults and children. There are two naturally-occurring minerals that you’ll find as active ingredients in these products: zinc oxide and titanium oxide.

Zinc Oxide is derived from zinc and ground into small particles between 30 and 200 nanometers in size. It can be present at concentrations of up to 25%

Titanium Dioxide is derived from titanium and has a smaller particle size of 10 to 100 nanometers. It can be used at a concentration as high as 25%.

Mineral sunscreen does not absorb into the body which is one of the key components that make it safer for children and therefore adults. While one may assume that all children’s sunscreen is safe and adheres to recommendations set by the FDA, this is not the case. You must take the time to review the ingredients list for any sunscreen you intend on using, whether this is for yourself or your child. There is children’s sunscreen that contains chemical blockers like avobenzone, oxybenzone, and octinoxate – these ingredients can cause some skin irritation.


For children who are out in the sun for long periods (i.e. playing or swimming), it is wise to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours minimum. Factors play a crucial role in determining when to apply and how to apply. If you look at the bottle of sunscreen—no matter the SPF level—it will say most likely mention that it retains good coverage when in the water for up to 80 minutes. Less than 90 mins. We all do sweat, especially in the summertime, some more profusely than others. Sunscreen application should be done to your face, neck, and hands. If you are spending time at a waterpark then don’t forget to apply sunscreen on the back of your neck and the tops of your ears. This can seem a bit obsessive, but many people wonder why they will end up burned even after applying sunscreen. This is because the application is just as important as ingredients.

Sunscreen is your first line of defense against the sun. But it should go without saying that you would want to avoid peak sun-overexposure, wearing sun-protective clothing and hats and spending some time in the shade are always better measures. Additionally, you want to take into account your skincare routine and that of your child. You want to be careful about the other skin products you apply when heading into the sun, such as products with retinol, vitamin A or vitamin C, as these can increase photosensitivity and potentially contribute to burns.

If you or your child have an allergy to zinc, be careful about using mineral sunscreen. Some alternatives to this are chemical sunscreens combined with titanium dioxide. This process can be trial and error and may take some experimenting with various products to help determine which one is best to avoid clogged pores and acne or skin irritation.

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Written by Anna Barnes
Photo by Julia Kuzenkov from Pexels

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