Monday, May 18, 2015

Not All Sunscreens Are Created Equal - Where Does Yours Stand?

PLease note:  EWG's sunscreen guide link has been updated to reflect 2016 changes! 
Memorial Day weekend is this weekend;  the (unofficial) start of summer - so lets talk sunscreens!

Everyone should be wearing sunscreen on a daily basis, especially during summer.   We should not only be wearing it daily, but if we spend time outdoors we need to be reapplying throughout the day- that is a lot of sunscreen you and your family will be using!

It makes sense, then, to buy a sunscreen that will protect you and your family from the sun's dangerous rays and not expose you to numerous dangerous chemicals.   The good news?  Today, there are is a plethora of safe, non-toxic alternatives available.   There is no reason NOT to buy a safe non-toxic sunscreen; you just need to know what to look for and which to choose, because the one you have been using since you were a little child might not be the safest option.

The bad news? In the  Environmental Group's 2015 report,  researchers from EWG have discovered that 80% of the products offer “inferior sun protection or contain worrisome ingredients like oxybenzone and vitamin A,” naming Neutrogena as the brand most at fault for promising sun protection without delivering.

Remember: your skin is your largest organ.  Anything you put on it enters your body- and if you are pregnant it enters your developing baby's body too.

What To Avoid

  • The main ingredient you want to avoid?  Retinyl palmitate, a type of Vitamin A. Vitamin A is an antioxidant added to skin products because it is believed to help slow the skin's aging process.  It is safe to use for night creams, which we use while indoors. However, a federal study recently found that Vitamin A might speed the growth of cancerous tumors when used on skin exposed to sunlight.
  • Oxybenzone – One of the most common ingredients in sunscreens sold in the US- so common that most people in the US have it running through our blood stream.  This is a hormone disrupting chemical that acts like estrogen in the body.  In studies, it has been seen to alter sperm production in animals and is also associated with endometriosis in women.  The worse part? It only blocks UVB ray (sun’s good rays that provide vitamin D), not UVA which are the most free radical damaging rays.
  • It is also a good idea to avoid sunscreens not labeled as “Broad Spectrum” or that have low SPF values between 2 and 14.  While they help prevent sunburn, they do not help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. 

Every year, the Environmental Working Group publishes its Guide to Sunscreens.  In it, it tests and rates sunscreens according to the chemicals found in the product.  Some of the best known brands (Banana Boat, Coppertone Sport, Coppertone Water Babies, Neutrogena, store brands like CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens, Hawaiian Tropic etc) have some of the worse ratings on the EWG database - so it is definitely worth your while to cross check you favorite sunblock before you put it all over your body next time!

Among the safest that we have tried here at Non-Toxic Munchkin and like (and they start at $10):

Less oily finish (ideal for face)

Great for kids and body

Sunscreen sticks 


  • A strong correlation exists between the number of childhood sunburns and increased melanoma risk.   Make sure to reapply sunblock frequently, especially in fidgety, water loving children.
  • Avoid etinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A and Oxybenzone.
  • Choose sunscreens that have titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.  These do not penetrate the skin and provide UVA  (the sun's most damaging rays) protection. 
  • Pick broad spectrum sunscreens - these offer a similar level of UVB and UVA protection.

Now you are ready for some summer fun!!


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