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Looking for the best kids safe sunscreen and which ingredients to avoid? This guide will teach you the must avoid chemicals in sunscreen as well as the best safe sunscreen for the entire family, including, baby’s, kids and pregnant mama’s!
Did you know more people are diagnosed each year with skin cancer than all other cancers combined?(1) Research has shown that sunburns early in life increase a child’s risk for skin cancer later in life (2.)
A 2019 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that a staggering 83 percent of tested sunscreens pose a risk to your health and the environment.
And an estimated 90% of the signs of aging are caused by the sun (1).
It took just one day of use for several common sunscreen ingredients to enter the bloodstream at levels high enough to trigger a government safety investigation. A recent study (4), published in the medical journal JAMA, also found that the blood concentration of three of the ingredients continued to rise as daily use continued and then remained in the body for at least 24 hours after sunscreen use ended.
That’s scary stuff!
You definitely DON’T want to be smearing hormone-disrupting goo all over your children’s body (or your own!)
So what can you do?
For starters, take matters into your own hands.
The FDA has been “updating” its sunscreen rules for 40 YEARS and we’ve still got chemical-soaked, harmful sunscreens on store shelves.
I don’t expect that to change any time soon.
Here’s what you need to know and how to choose the best kids safe sunscreen.
What chemicals you should avoid in sunscreen?
Banned in Europe and several other countries.
96% percent of Americans have oxybenzone, an ingredient in 65%- 80% of all sunscreens on the market in their body (3).
In particular, FDA raised concerns about the substantial skin absorption of oxybenzone, its potential to affect hormone levels and the increased absorption susceptibility of children (FDA 2019)(3).
It is even found in breast milk. A recent study found that adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone levels had significantly lower (5) total testosterone levels.
It is also linked to itchy, eczema-like allergic reactions.
Limited or banned in Canada, Japan and Europe.
Octinoxate is an endocrine disruptor that mimics estrogen and since it easily penetrates skin, may lead to reproductive and developmental toxicity (6).
It is added to sunscreen to protect against UVB rays but it’s unstable and actually may not even be very effective.
In a 2008 article in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, the authors write, “Upon exposure to sunlight, octinoxate degrades into a photoproduct with less UV-absorbing ability.”(7)
What ingredient in sunscreen is bad for the ocean?
Oxybenzone and octinoxate (both listed above) are linked to damaging oceans and coral reefs. Oxybenzone was banned in Hawaii in 2018 and the city of Key West bans both ingredients in a conservation effort.
Banned in Canada
New research links this ingredient to cancer and shows this ingredient not only does not protect from, but may contribute to melanoma(8.) And there are major data gaps, so it’s best to avoid this ingredient altogether!
Rated 2 by EWG
While not related to hormone disruption, EWG did find high rates of skin irritation with this ingredient. Sunlight can cause this ingredient to break down and lose its effectiveness for skin protection, which means it needs to be used with ingredients like Octisalate (banned in Japan) to be stable and block sun.
Since avobenzone degrades in the sun, release of free radicals takes place and that may actually increase the risk for cancer (8).
Learn more in over 312 Avobenzone studies of concern.
This ingredient is a form of vitamin A, and that’s good right?
Wrong. When this ingredient is exposed to the sun it forms free radicals, which may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight. Health agencies have raised a concern that daily skin application of vitamin A creams may contribute to excessive vitamin A intake for pregnant women and other populations.
It’s important we all avoid sunscreens and other skin and lip products containing vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, retinol, retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate and retinoic acid.
Other ingredients to avoid:
- Fragrance- a blanket term which can include over 3,000 chemicals (learn more and how to avoid here)
- Parabens – a common preservative(more here)
What are the safest sunscreens?
Best Kids Safe Sunscreen Options:
Beautycounter sunscreen tops the list in both safety and performance. It is formulated with antioxidant rich California poppy, ensuring it works to improve skin health while you are wearing it.
Beautycounter products are all formulated for human safety. It may sound crazy to say that but did you know that ingredients used in personal care products aren’t required to be tested for safety on human health (including products made for kids and pregnant women!)The personal care industry is effectively unregulated—the last piece of regulation (a single page at that), was passed in 1938—which means that companies are essentially free to do whatever they want, with no government oversight, packing products that we use every day with toxic ingredients, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors (more on that here.)
Beautycounter formulates it’s sunscreen with safe minerals and free of potentially harmful chemicals. They have a list of over 1500 ingredients they will never use in any of their products, which leaves this mama worry free. I love that I don’t have to research a laundry list of ingredients when I shop, which saves me time and the headache.
Now let’s talk performance. Believe me, I tried all the more natural brands before I found Beautycounter and the products perform as well, if not better than conventional counterparts.
Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist (SPF 30)
This air powered mist is perfect for the entire family and comes in two handy sizes. My two year old loves this one and its EASY to apply on a squirmy toddler.
It provides UVA, UVB, and blue light protection while being gentle (and it makes my skin feel nice and soft.)It sprays on white to help guide application, blends in easily, and dries quickly without any greasy residue.
Formulated with non-nano zinc oxide, this mist sits on top of the skin and bounces the sun’s rays away from the skin. (Plus, it’s air-powered—no aerosol!)
- Sprays at any angle
- Reef-friendly (no oxybenzone, octinoxate or harmful ingredients)
- Water-resistant for up to 80 minutes
I do recommend spraying this product into your hands and then rubbing onto the face.
Click here to learn more about Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Mist.
Looking for a smaller bottle? I love having one of these convenient sizes in both my purse and diaper bag for on the go (when we need sunscreen anyway!)
Countersun Mineral Sunscreen Stick (SPF 30)
Other Best Kids Safe Sunscreen Options
On a budget or need it NOW? I get it! Here are some safe sunscreens you can grab at Target or Whole Foods in a pinch:
I hope this Best Kids Safe Sunscreen Guide has given you some helpful information and suggestions for the best types of sunscreen for your skin – an your health.
Please let me know what you think in the comments below. And share your favorite sunscreens as well!
- EWG: The Trouble with Sunscreen
- JAMA: Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma
- Karlsson I, Hillerström L, Stenfeldt AL, Mårtensson J, Börje A. “Photodegradation of dibenzoylmethanes: potential cause of photocontact allergy to sunscreens.” Chemical Research in Toxicology. November 2009. doi: 10.1021/tx900284e.