Long gone are the days when you could sling a few basics in your bag the night before your holiday, grab your sunscreen and passport, and head off. Family toiletries alone can take up a whole suitcase. But with the recent dramatic expansion in the number of child-friendly brands, how do you know what to buy? Organic? Natural? Specific baby ranges? Kids’ products? We’ve tried to simplify the process for you.
See also our tips page on family holiday health and safety, and also our features on best sun protection products for mums and dads.
All prices were correct at the time of writing.
Sun Protection for Children
Parents with children who suffer from eczema know that suncreams often pose a problem with flare-ups, making the skin even itchier and sorer. Advice from the Eczema Society is to always carry out a patch test before trying a new product, as what can work for some may not for others. Look for fragrance-free protection and avoid those with the chemical Methyldibromoglutaronitrile, the main culprit when it comes to an allergic reactions (the website lists products that don’t contain this chemical, as well other brands, which may be available on prescription for acute sufferers).
Johnson’s Suncare range is a good all-round choice, offering two types of protection – for babies, with a SPF50, and for kids, in both 25SPF and 50SPF (boots.com; from £9.99). It is not formulated with chemical sunscreens but rather contains titanium dioxide to physically reflect UVA and UVB rays, so doesn’t penetrate the skin and hence is less irritating and suitable for sensitive skins, although it does mean it goes on quite white and thick.
Dead Sea Spa Magik Sunsafe (peak-nutrition.co.uk; £16.15) has a light, velvety texture and a unique mirror effect system that also reflects away the sun’s harmful rays. It’s a good all-rounder as it contains Dead Sea minerals to prevent skin ageing (helpful for older members of the family concerned with sun wrinkles), is hypoallergenic, easily absorbed and waterproof for up to 8hrs.
Lavera’s Baby & Child Neutral Sun Spray SPF20 (lavera.co.uk; £18.50) has won numerous awards, including the Natural Beauty Awards for Best Sun Protection for the past 3yrs. This mineral-based sunscreen is ideal for sensitive types, effective immediately on application (no need to wait 20 minutes as with conventional sunscreens), easy to apply on wriggling kiddies, and uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect up to 95% of the sun’s rays. The evening primrose oil and liquorice extract have a soothing and anti-inflammatory effect.
Ahava’s Mineral Suncare – all allergy tested – include the Sun Protection Anti-Ageing Facial Moisturiser SPF50 (ahava.co.uk; £21), suitable for children’s delicate faces where the skin is thinnest. It uses Dead Sea minerals and vitamin-rich Dunaliella algae seaweed to protect, moisturise and nourish the skin and contains only natural preservatives, with no parabens or Oxybenzone.
La Roche-Posay, a sensitive-skin specialist brand, is often recommended by dermatologists and is a partner of the National Eczema Society. Its Dermo-Pediatrics High Protection Spray SPF50 (laroche-posay.com; £16.50) contains no fragrance or parabens and has a reduced chemical filters content. With a main active ingredient of thermal spa water, it is extremely gentle as well as being easy and quick to apply.
After-Sun Care for Children
Yes to Baby Carrots’ 100% natural range of products for little ones includes the foaming Shampoo & Body Wash (victoriahealth.com; £8.99), a great all-in-one that cleans hair and body, with a tear-free formula and organic melon, pumpkin and Vitamin E for super-soft skin and tangle-free locks.
Davines Su After Sun Wash (+22 (0)203 301 5449; £12.87) is excellent for the whole family after a day in the sun – the delicate shampoo and shower gel combo means you can cut down on heavy, separate bottles. The apricot oil and rice proteins rehydrate skin and hair and clean away salt, chlorine and sunscreen residues.
Vie’s Soothing Bath Milk (vieathome.com; £16) from its new Mummy&Me range offers TLC to babies on their first ever holiday, or to new mums. Perfect for cooling baby down after a hot day, it also aids a good night’s sleep and eases any of mum’s aches and pains.
Renowned organic brand NHR Organic Oils’ dedicated mother and baby range includes an Organic Shampoo (nhrorganicoils.com; £8.62) made with organic marigolds, holder of a sought-after Soil Association Organic Certificate. Containing no synthetic additives, it has probably one of the gentlest formulas around and is just the ticket for cooling and reviving tiny tots after a day out and about.
To cool children’s overheated skin, apply Naturally Cool Kids Cool ‘n’ Soothe After Sun Lotion (naturallycoolkids.com; £9.95) after their bath or shower. With funky packaging to appeal to kids, it is non-sticky and all-natural, with a hint of lavender for soothing hot tots.
Barefoot Botanicals’ Rescue Me SOS Cream (barefoot-botanicals.com; £9.95) is a great first-aider while away, with a combination of therapeutic herbs to relieve itching, stinging, inflammation of eczema and post-sun soreness.
For taming unruly hair after hours rolling round in the sand, Eco Kid Bubbalicious Smooth Protection Paste (peak-nutrition.co.uk; £8.25) has a soft hold and slicks down even the fluffiest of hair. It contains no artificial colours, preservatives or fragrances but instead a cocktail of natural plant essences, and also helps prevent lice infestations (the last thing you need on holiday!).
Insect Repellents and First Aid
While we're on the subject of nasty bugs, remember to pack a child-friendly insect repellent. Mosi-Guard’s Natural Insect Repellent Spray (mosiguard.co.uk; £6.89) can be used on children as young as 3 months as well as those with sensitive skins, protecting against biting insects through its active ingredient of Citriodiol, an extract of lemon eucalyptus oil. It also is the exclusive supporter of BADAUK, the national charity working to raise awareness of tick-borne diseases and insect-bite protection.
DEET-based repellents recommended to those travelling to tropical locations are out of bounds for children under 6 (and pregnant women), who are at the risk of neurological damage from them. Incognito’s Anti-Mosquito (lessmosquito.com; £9.49) has no chemical ingredients so can be used by everyone in the family; its cocktail of natural ingredients claims to make it as effective as DEET products. If you have kids who won’t let you come near them with a spray, Naturally Cool Kids’ innovative Bug Bands (naturallycoolkids.com; £3.95 for 2) – fabric wrist (or ankle) bands impregnated with natural oils to repel insects, DEET-free – can be worn while swimming.
A first-aid must-have, Queen Cosmetics Seaside Cream (queen-cosmetics.com; £23.45), formulated with an intensive mix of oils and beeswax to soothe and repair skin, soothes sunburn or chapped or dry skin, helps repair grazed skin and blisters, and prevents nappy rash. It can even be used by mum on nails and cuticles, to keep eyebrows neat, and as a lip-gloss!
With toddlers prone to bumps and bruises, a hand-bag essential is Arnica Kids Stick (boots.com; £5.35), made with the natural Alpine flower Arnica Montana to prevent bruising after a fall or knock.
Biolane’s Saline Wipes (biolane.co.uk; £5.25) are ideal for wiping cuts and grazes and for general hygiene while on the move (the baby hygiene brand, created by pharmacists, has been used in French maternity hospitals for more 30 years).
*The CTPA is the trade association representing the cosmetics industry in the UK and has information on children’s sun protection and a downloadable CTPA Parent Factsheet.