“Choosing a safe sunscreen for your family is such an important job as a mom. I’ve tried to explain the science behind what makes something a safe sunscreen, and what we need to look for when choosing a product.

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SAFE SUNSCREEN

As the sun gets stronger and days longer, this is the time of year when I’m asked how to choose a safe sunscreen. I started paying more attention to sunscreen ingredients when I had to put it on my first born child. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about what’s safe and what’s not. I’m also covered in moles from head to toe, and I see them now on my kids too. I’ve had a least 10 surgeries to have them removed, and often needed a second round to remove the margins. My family has a history of skin cancer, and my husband’s family has a history of melanoma. I’m truly diligent about sun protection, and it comes from both safe sunscreen and protective clothing.

Safe Sunscreen: Mineral based ingredients

The ingredients to look are zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both. These are mineral based ingredients, which physically block the sun from absorbing into your skin. They are your safest choice, as they don’t disrupt your hormones, and don’t actually penetrate your skin. Zinc in particular is healing for the skin. Think about all the diaper rash creams on the market, they all use zinc oxide, which has a healing mechanism. Even more interesting, there are studies that show zinc may help your body assimilate Vitamin D from the sun better. As our sunscreen wears off, we are going to be exposed to some sunshine until we reapply, which will produce Vitamin D on the skin. If that gets absorbed better from the presence of zinc, it’s a win, win.

Unsafe Sunscreen: Chemical ingredients

Despite us growing up with chemical based sunscreen, we now know they are harmful to our health. The chemical sunscreens block our skin’s ability to breathe. That’s not a good thing. Studies also recognize that many of the chemicals being used are disrupting our hormones. This is so important, especially on little bodies! These are the chemicals you don’t want to see on the ingredient list of your sunscreen:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate
  • Benzophenone
  • Butylparaben (always run when you see “paraben” anywhere!)

Additionally, methyliosothiazolinone should also be avoided. It’s a skin allergen, and was deem unsafe by the European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety back in 2015. Yet it’s in 44 sunscreen on the market today in the US. It’s a chemical preservative and it doesn’t belong getting absorbed into your body.

Why Chemical Sunscreens are not Safe

Here’s the problem. As you sit in the sun, the chemicals bake into your skin. As a toxin, this is absorbed and then travels to your fat cells. They STICK there. Once you have a toxin that has found a fat cell buddy, they stick. Curious where they stick…you guessed it, cellulite- in all the places you don’t want it. Reducing your total toxin exposure everyday is a key part of achieving a weight loss goal. It makes a big difference.

Second, chemical sunscreens actually alter the integrity of our cells, increasing carcinoma risk. This means a sunburn is actually less damaging than what a chemical sunscreen does to your skin cells. Crazy, but true.

Third, if chemical sunscreens are killing the coral reefs, what are they doing to your body? Sunscreens using chemical ingredients are being banned in Hawaii and Australia due to the toxicity in the wildlife that’s killing coral reefs. Mineral sunscreens do not pose the same risk to the environment.

[click_to_tweet tweet=”If chemical sunscreens are killing the coral reefs, what are they doing to your body?” quote=”if chemical sunscreens are killing the coral reefs, what are they doing to your body?”]

safe sunscreen Food as sunscreen

Foods that Increase Sun Protection Naturally

This is a fun thing! There are plenty of plant foods rich in antioxidants that actually help protect your skin from the inside out. While I still support using sunscreen, I’ll happily layer on these foods for extra protection.

  • Watermelon
  • Green Tea (try it iced!)
  • Leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes

It’s the pigment rich foods that tend to boost an internal SPF. Tomatoes showed a 30% increase in sun protection after study participants ate a tomato rich diet. Maybe that’s an extra good reason for a caprese salad at lunch with extra basil, right?

Eating plenty of greens can also help us capture sunlight in our cells, which is then translated into energy via our mitochondria. (Sayer Ji- Green Med 2015 Chlorophyl)

Safe Sunscreen and Skin Cancer

I can’t gloss over the fact that skin cancer rates are on the rise. However, the use of sunscreen is also on the rise. Shouldn’t the cancer rates be doing down?

What’s happening may be related to our lack of Vitamin D as a society. Those of us living in the northern latitudes are certainly vitamin D deficient most of the year, and the supplements we may take are not the same as vitamin D generated from sunshine. Vitamin D from the sun is created via the absorption of UVB rays, to create D3 sulfate. What we buy from the store is just D3, and what is fortified in foods is just D2. These are both water soluble, versus D3 sulfate that is fat soluble.

Why is Vitamin D so important? A deficiency in this “hormone” is actually more likely to cause an overall increase in cancer risk, including skin cancer. So as we block all the sun we can to avoid premature aging and skin cancer, we may be setting ourselves up for an increase in cancer rates.

Adding to this concern, studies now show melanoma is more likely to occur in places where the sun doesn’t shine. There is a study that shows there is a reduced likelihood for melanoma for adults and children who play outside. (source) This isn’t the same case for basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, so we all still need to be mindful about our sun exposure, but maybe it’s time to play more outside without sunscreen in the early hours of the day. Let our skin soak in the vitamin D created, and don’t wash it till the end of the day. Vitamin D needs nearly 12 hours to be fully absorbed into your bloodstream.

Safe Sunscreen Picks

How do shop for safe sunscreen? First, look at the ingredient label on the back. Skip the marketing on the front label and flip that bottle over. Look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in the ingredient label. Make sure you don’t see “fragrance” or methyliosothiazolinone on the ingredient list either.

Next, check the bottles against the Environmental Working Group sunscreen ratings guide. Enter your choice and shop for those with a #1 rating. These are some of my favorites. (and yes, I am a Beautycounter consultant as I joined many years ago to support their mission to educate women about safer skin care. And the discount)

 

safe sunscreen beautycounter nontoxic

The new sunscreen line from Beautycounter was updated with the addition of California poppy, which boosts the effectiveness of zinc oxide to block blue light. This makes it an excellent non-toxic safe sunscreen to avoid premature aging from blue light. In addition, the zinc oxide used is very fine, so you won’t be walking around covered in a white film. The newest formula is non-greasy and actually feels good on the skin. All of the sunscreen has an EWG rating of a 1.

In addition, there is a new sunscreen mist option available. It’s an air-pressured can, not a spray using chemical propellants. Also, it’s a non-nano particle zinc oxide so it’s not harmful to children. Those chemical spray sunscreens may be handy, but they are damaging to the skin AND your kid’s lungs if they are inhaled.

In addition to Beautycounter, I’m also happy with these brands and usually shop for them on Amazon. (However, I only use Beautycounter on my kid’s faces as they have very sensitive skin. Other sunscreens would make their eyes itch and get red so I stick with Beautycounter.) 

SPF Clothing

I think sun coverage during the day is another great awesome to protect our skin, and wear a lot less sunscreen in general. I don’t need all that much sunscreen on my kids when they wear sunscreen shirts and bottoms. My favorite brands to pick from are Cabana Life, Hatley, Mott50 and Coolibar. You will find me on the beach in this navy stripe Cabana life rashguard shirt this summer.

Add a big summer hat and you are golden! Well…fair I mean.

ultimate safe sunscreen guide safe sunscreen kids babies

I hope this long post about safe sunscreen is helpful, and I’ve added in a lot of information. Bottom line, enjoy your time in the sun safely, get some vitamin D, and choose a nontoxic mineral based sunscreen. Happy summer.

Summer is on our doorstep friends. Time to load up on sunscreen and today is the day for the 2015 Sunscreen Guide. Here’s your chance to see what’s new, what works and most importantly, what’s safe for you and your family. Sunscreen is a wonderful barrier to protect your skin, but educate yourself on which ones can do more harm than good.

2015 Healthy Sunscreen Guide

In this guide, I’ll be sharing with you the product, the price (and amazon affiliate links where available to make ordering easy) and also the EWG rating. For those of you unfamiliar with EWG (or Environmental Working Group), it’s a hugely educational site that helps shed light on the safety of sunscreen and other beauty products. I am only sharing products that get a 0, 1 or 2 rating. Anything lower is just too questionable for me to consider sharing it with you.

2015-SUNSCREEN-GUIDE-label

NATURE’S GATE SPORT SPF 30

  • $10.50/ 4 oz. (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 2
  • Great for the beach and playing outdoor sports

GODDESS GARDEN KIDS NATURAL LOTION SPF 30

  • $15.99/ 6 oz.
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Goddess Garden can be found easily at Whole Foods or online. Note- the trigger spray option EWG rating drops down to a 3.

 NEUTRAL SKIN MINERAL SUNSCREEN

  • $11.99/ 8 oz. (great value. Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: not included (I used this last year and can vouch for it.)
  • Thinner lotion that spreads better than most.

RAW ELEMENTS ECO-STICK

  • $12.99 stick/ (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • The ease of a stick without the white cast. The brown tint really doesn’t look brown, just a hint of color on light skin. It’s a little sticky so it’s best for small areas like the face and top of hands.

AVA ANDERSON LOTION

  • $15.95/ 2.9 oz
  • EWG Rating: 1 (same for the sunscreen stick)
  • Friends swear by this line for its eco-friendliness. I just ordered my first batch of products.

THINKSPORT SUNSCREEN (BABY AND KIDS VERSION AVAILABLE)

  • $12.55/ 3.0 oz (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Easy to apply and the whole family can use it safely. Every version has great ratings.

BADGER BALM KIDS CREAM SPF 30

  • $14.49/2.9 oz (Amazon)
  • EWG Rating: 1
  • Badger is well known as being a great choice for kids with sensitive skin.

Couple of quick notes. You will notice that the majority of these sunscreens can’t be found at your local drugstore. Those sunscreens are generally less expensive, but are using chemicals instead to create a barrier for your skin. The benefit of using a mineral based sunscreen (zinc and titanium dioxide) is they create a physical barrier against the sun immediately. No need to wait ten minutes for chemicals to sink into your skin to make the sunscreen effective. (doesn’t that just sound creepy…)

AVOBENZONE = YUCKY

QUICK SHOPPING LINKS 

 

The hot weather has finally arrived in our little neck of the woods. Snow pants and wool hats were quickly replaced with sunscreen and sun hats. Getting the kids off to school layered up in sunscreen is a new part of our routine, one they need to get used to for the summer ahead. But what about other ways to protection our skin from the sun’s harsh rays? May is Skin Cancer Awareness month and it has certainly touched many people’s lives. Today I want to share some ways to protect your skin beyond reaching for the bottle of sunscreen.

Sun Protection Beyond the Bottle

Umbrellas

  • Find yourself a fabulous umbrella for the beach. Make sure it has an UPF rating of 50+. (UPF stands for ultraviolet protection factor)
  • The Coolibar Umbrella here is our family favorite. You can see at least 4 of them lined up at our beach spot all summer long with multiple families sharing the cool shade. It’s worth the price.

UPF Clothing

  • There is now a wide variety of choices in clothing with built-inUPF ratings of 50+.
    • Coolibar has womens, mens, kids and babies
    • Athleta and Title Nine also have options now for working out and some beach cover-ups.
    • Mott50 has fashion forward choices, including this awesome infinity scarf accessory.

Mott50 Infinity scarf

 

Hats

  • There are so many choices in fabrics…straw, canvas, and so on.
  • The key is to find one that will cover your ears, one of the top spots for skin cancer to form.
  • Find one with a brim large enough to give you lots of coverage, but not so much that it’s droopy and impedes your peripheral vision. (I had that issue once and it was so annoying while watching the kids at the beach.)

Kids Surf Suits

Kids UPF Surf Suit

  • The adorable surf suits make playing outside all day so much easier for both kids and parents. Less sunscreen is needed and some cover from the neck all the way to the ankles. (both suits at Coolibar.com)
  • These suits are generally good for one season and not great as hand-me-downs. The fabric often gets stretched out from sand, salt and the sun and you can’t rely on the same level of sun protection.

Hydration

  • A friendly reminder to stay hydrated while hanging out in the sun. Treat yourself and the kids to new water bottles this summer to encourage lots of water intake. Flavor the water with fresh fruit or cucumbers and keep it chilled.

Stay safe as you enjoy the warm summer months! Sunscreen will always be helpful but I love that there are all these other options now to help us protect our skin from the sun.

Disclosure: Coolibar provided our family product in exchange for this post. We have been loyal shoppers of Coolibar for years and all opinions shared here are my own. Throughout May, which is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, Coolibar is giving the American Cancer Society $1 for every order placed. As an added incentive, they are also offering 15% off the entire order using the code ACS15.

safe sunscreen choices for your family

Have you ever stood in front of the selection of sunscreen products and been intimidated by all the choices? Mineral, UVA/UVB, Spray, Non-Nano and so on. It’s a little more confusing now, and finding which sunscreen is right for your family can be a bit daunting. I am often asked what sunscreen we are using, and why. Today I’m sharing some of my top picks this year and how we making our sunscreen shopping decisions. {some affiliate links are included in this post}

A couple of things to look for in general when shopping for suncreen.

  1. Look for mineral based sunscreen: zinc or titanium dioxide
  2. Avoid chemical based suncreen: oxybenzone. There is concern that it’s more detrimental to your skin if you don’t have enough on and it can accelerate skin turnover…aka skin cancer. Avobenzone is a concern, but less of a hazard to your body. {further detail: EWG recommends that consumers avoid this chemical because it can penetrate the skin, cause allergic skin reactions and may disrupt hormones (Calafat 2008, Rodriguez 2006, Krause 2012).} 
  3. Don’t buy sunscreen wipes. The FDA has barred them going forward.
  4. Skip the aerosol sprays. I do miss them, but the concern about inhaling nano-particles is enough to make me take a pass.

EWG does not recommend powder and spray sunscreens because of concerns about inhalation. The FDA is reviewing safety and efficacy data for sprays…EWG is especially concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in powdered sunscreens and makeups. Inhalation is a much more direct route of exposure to these compounds than skin penetration, which appears to be low in healthy skin. If you want the benefits of a mineral sunscreen, choose a zinc- or titanium-containing lotion but not a powder. If you use a pump or spray sunscreen, lower your inhalation risk by applying it on your hands and then wiping it on your face. {source}

Coola baby sunscreen, EWG rating of 1

 Babies and Kids

  • Coola Baby SPF 50 is again one of our top picks for this season. After trying multiple mineral based sunscreens, this is the only brand that does not cause our son’s skin to turn red and bumpy on his face. It rubs in well and isn’t too thick, which is so helpful for wiggly children. The one bummer is the price. At $36, it’s not cheap so I find it’s often used on the littlest bodies in the house, and also for faces. Note- if it’s a little cool, the lotion becomes a little thick. Warm the bottle in your hands. EWG rating of 1
  • Block Island Organic Baby SPF 30– another safe option and one we are using on the big kids in the house. A lower SPF so you need to be mindful of reapplying it. This also has an EWG rating of a 1 and is locally made in Rhode Island. Bonus~~ all readers can order Block Island Sunscreen at a 20% discount. Use code: emilyr
  • BabyGanics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick– loving this stick as it has a broader application stick than most others. It’s awesome for faces. There is a lot of whiteness because of the zinc, but it’s quite helpful when you let a five year old try to apply sunscreen herself. This is not rated by the EWG at this time

block island sunscreen, EWG rating of 1

Mom & Dad

  • Block Island Organics Mineral Sunscreen SPF 40.   This is starting to be the go to sunscreen as we dash off to the pool or playground. It’s a little thinner than other sunscreens so it’s really easy to apply. It does leave a whitish cast, but works very well around water. You could see the water bead up on the skin. At $27.99 it’s a reasonble price for a sunscreen with an EWG rating of a 1. Again- the 20% discount is available by purchasing directly from Block Island Organic. 
  • Mexitan SPF 50 Natural Sunscreen. This one makes the cut as it’s at a lower price and has an EWG rating of a 1. I haven’t tried it myself but have read many great reviews from other bloggers doing sunscreen reviews.

The other component of protecting your skin that bares mentioning is clothing. We put our kids in rash guard swim suits that cover most of your body. It makes it easier to keep their body covered, use less of the expensive sunscreen and helps us avoid having to reapply sunscreen too often. We have used Mini Boden, One Step Ahead and now Cabana Life suits with success.

Got a “burning” sunscreen question? {so punny right?} Let me know and I’ll try to answer it!

It’s hard to avoid all the articles recently talking about the safety of sunscreen. If you love to play outside like our family, sunscreen is one of those summer necessities you spend a lot of time applying and reapplying. What’s really in the sunscreen you use for your family? Here’s my cheat sheet of what to look for in your sunscreen and what to avoid. Plus I’ll share some of my favorites that all get grade of 2 or better on the EWG Guide for Sunscreen.

What do you want in your sunscreen?

  • Mineral based products using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • No false promises. It shouldn’t read “sunblock” or “waterproof”. These terms are no longer allowed on sunscreen labels. Water-resistant is ok.
  • Broad Spectrum label which protects against both sunburns and aging.
  • SPF of 30-50.

What to avoid in your sunscreen?

  • Oxybenzone or any other chemical based lotion that has an ingredient ending in “one.”
  • Spray sunscreens. Aerosol based sprays contain nano particles that can be inhaled into the lungs and cause hormone disruption. Yes they are easy to use, but they are TOXIC!! The FDA is finally investigating this issue. Read more about why you should avoid spray sunscreens here.
  • Anything claiming to have an SPF over 50.

10 Healthy Sunscreens for Every Budget

 

For my top picks, I’m including brands that I’m familiar with or have tested out myself. I also choose sunscreen products that you can get at your local drugstore, Whole Foods or on Amazon.

  • Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Face Stick, SPF 50 (Rating 2)
  • COOLA Suncare Baby Moisturizer Mineral Sunscreen, Unscented, SPF 50 (Rating 1, this is what I’m using on my kids now)
  • COOLA Suncare Plant UV Face Moisturizer Sunscreen, Unscented, SPF 30 (Rating 1, I’m using this as my face sunscreen for everyday. Did you recently see the article about how wearing sunscreen keeps skin looking younger?)
  • Coppertone Kids Pure & Simple Lotion, SPF 50 (Rating 2)
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin Suncreen Lotion, SPF 50 (Rating 2)
  • Dolphin Organics Naturals Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 32 (Rating 2)
  •  Kiss My Face Natural Mineral Sunscreen with Hydresia, SPF 40 (Rating 2)
  • Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm, SPF 15 (Rating 2) (I’ve shared my thoughts before in a past sunscreen post.)
  • Mustela Broad Spectrum Mineral Sun Stick, SPF 50+
  • Seventh Generation Wee Generation Baby Sunscreen, SPF 30

 

Further Reading: My friend Lori shared her thoughts on finding the best non-whitening sunscreen. For a very detailed cheat sheet with product reviews you can read Kathy’s SafeMama’s 2013 recap.

Disclosure: I have received some of these products in the past and none for the purpose of this review. All opinions shared here are my own. The Amazon link is an affiliate link, if you make a purchase via Amazon it helps support this site. Thanks!