How to Avoid Dangerous Sunscreens for Your Child

dangerous sunscreensSPF 100+. That has to be good, right?

Not necessarily. Only 25% of the sunscreens on the market actually work to protect your skin, and even fewer are entirely safe. Recent studies show that many of the chemicals commonly found in sunscreen may be detrimental to your child’s health.

So what should you look for?

Remember that SPF (sun protection factor) only refers to the sunscreen’s ability to protect from UVB rays – the ones that cause sunburns. We are still vulnerable to UVA rays that can also cause skin damage, including premature aging of the skin and skin cancer. When purchasing sunscreen, you need to look for one labeled Broad Spectrum, which protects from both types of rays.

New labeling mandated by the FDA also ensures that sunscreens labeled SPF 15 or above will actually protect your skin. Those labeled SPF 2-14 only promise to prevent sunburn.

Skin Cancer Foundation SealHowever, there is a seal that the Skin Cancer Foundation puts on products they have investigated and found to be safe and effective. This is an easy way to rule out some undesirables.

The Environmental Working Group has evaluated the ingredients in sunscreen and has found two potentially dangerous chemicals. Although the American Academy of Dermatology and the FDA say they are safe, there is some evidence that these agents may actually damage your skin. Ironic, since you’re putting this stuff on your kids to protect them, right?

Oxybenzone is one chemical the EWG recommends you avoid in your sunscreen. I noticed that this is found in a majority of sunscreens!

The other one to stay clear of is retinyl palminate, which is a Vitamin A derivative. Keep in mind that the studies about retinyl palminate were in mice; it is not yet a proven carcinogen to humans. Personally, I think its better to be safe than sorry.

After reviewing the safety recommendations, I was frustrated to find that most common sunscreens did not make the cut. Fortunately, there are some accessible options that are, such as:

  1. Labeled Broad Spectrum
  2. SPF15-50
  3. Devoid of oxybenzone and retinyl palminate

My top choices after doing some research are the following:

  • Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Lotion SPF 50
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
  • Coppertone Water Babies Pure & Simple Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50
  • California Baby Everyday/Year-Round Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30+

recommended sunscreens for kids

These are just a few examples of safe effective choices. Just remember to follow the rules above and you can take comfort in the fact that the lotions you are slathering on your kids to keep them safe are indeed doing just that!

About Debra Berry

Dr. Debra Berry is a board-certified pediatrician in Lone Tree, Colorado providing comprehensive pediatric care at Lone Tree Pediatrics. Her primary goal as a physician is to help each of her patients live a healthy life and grow into a happy productive adult.