As we have learned more about the risk of skin cancer and sun damage over the last decade, sunscreen has become a part of many of our daily regimens. From expensive facial moisturizers containing sun protection ingredients to oils, aerosols, lotions, and sunscreen sticks – the options are nearly limitless! However, it is essential to understand… not all sun protection is created equally! In fact, a 2018 report from Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that nearly 67 percent of sunscreens didn’t work either because they provided inadequate sun protection and/or they contained harmful ingredients! (7)
Of course, this is generally concerning for us all, but for children and babies, it is even more worrisome since they are more susceptible to certain toxic chemicals during development, and blistering sunburns early in life can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer.
Whether you are looking for daily sun protection, stronger protection for those summer days at the beach, or a product designed for babies and young children, there are several important factors to consider when making your selection.
Does it work?
When determining which sunscreen is the most effective, most people tend to go with a higher SPF, but the higher the SPF doesn’t always mean better protection. Many doctors and experts have agreed that most sunscreens above 30 SPF offer the exact same amount of protection as many of the SPF30 or lower products.
Before we move on, let’s take a minute to talk about what exactly SPF means.
Sun protection factor (SPF) is the level of protection a product offers against UVB light. For example, SPF15 indicates that it will take 15 times longer for the skin to sunburn with that sunscreen on than it would with no sunscreen applied.
Sounds simple, right? Not exactly. Multiple factors play a role in ensuring the sunscreen applied will live up to it’s suggested level of protection.
To name a few…
- how much is applied (Most people, for example, only use 25 to 50 percent of the recommended amount.) (4)
- the environment (water, rain, dry conditions, etc.)
- time of day
- skin type
- product application
- location on earth
All of these factors also affect how often the product needs to be reapplied, and even in near perfect circumstances, protection typically wears off after a maximum of 2 hours, and the product will need to be reapplied to remain protected. (4)
Another determining factor in effectiveness is whether or not the product offers protection against UVA and UVB rays. Products providing protection against both are known as broad-spectrum sunscreens. (4)
Is it safe to use & safe for the environment?
So you have discovered a product that offers broad-spectrum coverage, you have applied enough, and are planning to apply it often – but, is it even safe?
Let’s begin with aerosol sunscreens. The EWG warns that spray sunscreens include two inherent hazards. (6)
- Problem 1 – First, spray sunscreen can be inadvertently inhaled during application, which can trigger breathing problems. (6)
- Problem 2 – Next, since spray sunscreens require no physical contact to apply, they may not provide complete skin coverage. (6)
Now that we have narrowed down the type of protection based on application let’s take a look at the ingredients.
- Enemy number 1 – Oxybenzone
Oxybenzone is a widely used ingredient in American chemical-based sunscreens. Lab testing has shown that this chemical penetrates the skin at rates of 1 to 9 percent. (7)
Why that’s concerning…
- Oxybenzone is known to act as an estrogen in the body, and it is linked to abnormal sperm function. (7)
- Oxybenzone also acts as a skin allergen in a significant number of people; as does methylisothiazolinone, another common sunscreen preservative.
- Moreover, due to its harmful environmental effects, oxybenzone is in the process of officially being banned as an ingredient in sunscreen by the state of Hawaii. (7)
- Enemy number 2 – Vitamin A ingredients
Wondering how vitamins in sunscreen could be a bad thing? Well, according to government animal testing data, it has been discovered that these ingredients react with UV rays and can increase the risk of skin tumors. (7)
- Enemy number 3 – Octinoxate
Like oxybenzone, octinoxate is another ingredient the state of Hawaii is in the process of prohibiting. Researchers say these toxins are linked to widespread coral reef damage and are harmful to marine life. (4)
So, what sun protection products are safe?
Well, it’s important to note that there is no perfect sunscreen! Many contain harmful chemicals, and even mineral-based ones often contain ingredients that can cross the blood-brain barrier and also harm aquatic life. (7)
Keeping that in mind, there are safer sunscreen options to utilize while also implementing other sun-safety measures such as limiting the amount of time you are in direct sunlight, wearing a hat and sunglasses, and opting for sun protective clothing. Typically, these safer options are known as mineral sunscreens, which are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. (1)
To help you easily ditch the bad and move forward with the good, we have included this nifty infographic from Dr. Axe that provides the “8 Best Sunscreens That Are Cheap & Widely Available”. (7)
Zerbe, L. (2018, May 23). Nearly Half of U.S. Sunscreens Would Be Banned in Europe. Why? They Don’t Work. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://draxe.com/best-sunscreens/
Looking to protect yourself a bit more, discover more options, or reveal if your choice sunscreen made the “worst” list?
The Best Sunscreens of 2018, Moisturizers
Andalou Naturals BB Argan Stem Cell Benefit Balm, Un-Tinted, SPF 30
Badger Damascus Rose Face Sunscreen, SPF 25
Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer, SPF 30
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Daily Defense, SPF 30
Goddess Garden Organics Face the Day Daily Moisturizer, SPF 30
Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
SanRe Organic Skinfood Shaded Rose-Solar Healing Facial Cream, SPF 30
Suntegrity Skincare Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen & Primer, SPF 30
The Best Sunscreens of 2018, Kid-Friendly
Adorable Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30+
All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Lotion Sunscreen, Sensitive Skin, SPF 50
Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream, Tangerine & Vanilla, SPF 30
Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, Baby, SPF 50
Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby, SPF 30+
BurnOut Kids Sunscreen, SPF 35
California Baby Calendula Sunscreen, SPF 30+
COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50
Equate Baby Zinc Sunscreen Mineral Lotion, SPF 50
Goddess Garden Organics Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Hawaiian Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 50
Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30
MDSolarSciences KidCreme Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 40
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen, SPF 32
Sunology Mineral Sunscreen, Kids, SPF 50
thinkbaby Sunscreen, SPF 50+
thinksport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
TruBaby Water & Play Sunscreen, SPF 30+
TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
Waxhead Sun Defense Baby Zinc Oxide Sunscreen, SPF 35
Panama Jack Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 85
Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen, SPF 70+
CVS Health Sun Lotion, SPF 70
Up & Up Sport Sunscreen Spray, SPF 15, 30 & 50
Panama Jack Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 15, 30 & 70
NO-AD Sun Care Sport Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50
Neutrogena Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50 & 85+
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Spray, SPF 30
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 70, 85+ & 100+
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen, SPF 70, 85+ & 100+
Worst Sunscreens for Kids
Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
Coppertone Water Babies Foaming Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 70
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous AccuSpray, SPF 70
Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 50
Coppertone Wet’n Clear Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 50+
Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
CVS Health Kids Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50 & 70
Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 70+
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Stick Sunscreen, SPF 70+
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Stick, SPF 55
Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 50
1. EWG. (n.d.). EWG’s 2018 Guide to Safer Sunscreens. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/report/the-trouble-with-sunscreen-chemicals/#.W0ZNjNhKhQI
2. EWG. (n.d.). EWG’s 2018 Guide to Safer Sunscreens. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=&brand_id=&ptype=&mineral=&order=score DESC&submit=Search#.W0Zn7dhKhQI
3. EWG. (n.d.). EWG’s 2018 Guide to Safer Sunscreens. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.ewg.org/sunscreen/about-the-sunscreens/?search=&brand_id=&ptype=&mineral=&order=score INC&submit=Search#.W0Zn7dhKhQJ
4.Hawaii first place to ban toxic sunscreen. (2018, July 10). Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://caymannewsservice.com/2018/07/hawaii-first-place-to-ban-toxic-sunscreen/
5. MacGill, M. (2018, June 18). Sun protection factor (SPF): What is the best sunscreen? Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/307838.php
6. Which Sunscreen Should I Avoid in Summer 2018? (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://www.tripsavvy.com/sunscreens-travelers-can-avoid-3259858
7. Zerbe, L. (2018, May 23). Nearly Half of U.S. Sunscreens Would Be Banned in Europe. Why? They Don’t Work. Retrieved July 11, 2018, from https://draxe.com/best-sunscreens/