Friday, May 27, 2016

The Best and The Worse Sunblocks for Kids: Is it Time To Try a New Sunscreen?

Memorial Day 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? There are still many (popular) sunscreens that contain some potentially dangerous chemicals and that can cause more harm than necessarily good - in fact almost 3/4 of products reviewed contained some worrisome chemical. 

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. 
  • Sprays:  According to EWG these "pose an inhalation risk and may not provide a thick and even coating on skin.

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.  This year, they focused on the best and worse sunscreens marketed towards kids and babies.  Some of the best known brands (Banana Boat, Coppertone Water Babies, store brands like CVS, etc) have some of the worse ratings for kids 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!

The worse sunblocks for babies and kids,  according to EWG, this year are: 

Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray, Kids, SPF 70
Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70+
Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70+
CVS Baby Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
CVS Kids Wet & Dry Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids, SPF 70
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 70+
Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55

The good news is that the database identified about 39 sunscreens scoring a 1!  Here are some of the ones we have tried and love:

  • 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 retinyl 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.

Want some more non-toxic summer tips?   Read our Non-Toxic Beach Bum guide! 

Now you are ready for some summer fun!!

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