It’s that time of year when pool parties dominate the calendar and popsicles are the snack of choice. Children relish the joy of running around barefoot and leaping through sprinklers, but what about protecting their skin from the sun’s strong rays? It’s time to stock up on sunscreen that will keep your family safe during the sunny summery months. So the great question is, what is the best line of defense against the sun’s powerful exposure?
The FDA encourages parents to keep kids covered with protective clothing, which includes lightweight long-sleeves, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. These items can help shield the skin and eyes from harmful ultra-violet rays, which cause the most sun damage. For babies under 6 months old, it is recommended that they not wear sunscreen and instead remain indoors between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. to avoid contact with the most intense sun rays.
There are a few things to be aware of when looking for a safe, reliable sunscreen. First of all, there are two types of active ingredients in sunscreen, chemical and mineral filters. Those made with chemical filters absorb into the skin to protect from the UV rays, while those made with minerals stay atop the skin and provide a physical barrier between the skin and the sun’s rays. While the mineral sunscreens contain safer ingredients, these types of sunscreens are often streaky white and may be hard to rub all the way into the skin. Both types of sunscreens provide an effective way to protect the skin from the sun, but may pose hazardous risks due to the ingredients.
Included here is a guideline for how to shop for sunscreen this summer. We’ve compiled a list of safe ingredients, ingredients to avoid, and our top picks for safe and reliable sunscreens for kids all summer long.
Zinc (also referred to as Zinc Oxide)
The most common ingredient used in mineral sunscreen, this ingredient provides excellent UVA protection without any known side effects.
Titanium (also referred to as Titanium Dioxide)
This is also one of the most commonly known “safe” ingredients, providing excellent coverage with virtually no penetration into the skin.
This ingredient is used less often, but believed to provide the best UVA protection from chemical filters.
This is a less common ingredient used in sunscreens due to its pending FDA approval, though it offers stable UVA protection.
INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
This chemical compound mimics estrogen in the body and is suspected to cause hormone-disruption and allergic reactions to the sun.
Vitamin A (also referred to as retinyl palmitate)
This ingredient became cause for concern after a U.S. government study (by the National Toxicology Program in 2012) suggested that it may speed the development of skin tumors and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.
This chemical causes thyroid and behavioral alterations in animal studies. It can be harmful if it comes in contact with water, and also causes free radicals to form, which is damaging to skin cells and may lead to premature aging.
This is another endocrine disruptor that causes alterations in estrogen, androgen and progesterone in the body.
Parabens can induce allergic reactions, hormone disruption, and developmental and reproductive toxicity. While butylparaben was reported to be non-carcinogenic in rats and mice, it has been suspected that parabens and other chemicals in underarm cosmetics may contribute to the rising incidence of breast cancer.
Safe Sunscreen Recommendations for Babies and Children (free of the above-listed harmful ingredients):
- The Honest Company Sunscreen SPF 30 ($13.95 for 3 oz.)
- TruKid Sunny Days Mineral All Natural Sunscreen ($17.29 for 3.5 oz.)
- Garden Goddess Sunny Body Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 ($14.95 for 6 oz.)
- Thinksport Thinkbaby Sunscreen, SPF 30+ ($9.34 for 3 oz.)
- Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen ($15.24 for 3 oz.)
- Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Mineral Block Face Stick ($14.11 for 3 oz.)
- Mustela Broad Spectrum SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen ($22 for 3.4 oz)
Have a wonderful time this summer playing outside with your kids, especially knowing they are protected by safe, effective sunscreen!
SHOPPING FOR SUNSCREEN? Check out the ratings on the Environmental Working Group’s guide to sunscreens, a database with “Best” and “Worst” sunscreen lists.