How to choose the safest sunscreen for your family

The sun is out!  Wait, really?!?  Finally, we can reap the many benefits of Vitamin D, but must also consider how much sun is too much and protect our skin accordingly.  Hats and protective clothing are probably our best bet, but sunscreen is a must sometimes.  I've been reading a lot lately about the harmful chemicals in many sunscreens and how they may not actually reduce our chances of skin cancer.  So I thought I would do a post to help us choose the right sunscreen for our family with the least amount of potentially hazardous (hormone disrupting and cancer causing ?!?) chemicals.  

Step 1:
Check out The Environmental Working Group's website.  They're the leading experts on all things sunscreen and rank the best products giving them a rating of either 1 (best) and up and have a price key from cheapest to most expensive.  You can also look up the sunscreen you currently use to see its rating.  Or just skip to step 2...

Step 2:
So I scoured the EWG's website and found what in my opinion are the 3 best options according to rating (all of these are #1's) and price.  Here are my suggestions:

  • Badger: Available at many retailers including Whole Foods.  I've used this in the past and was happy with it.  
  • The Honest Company Sunscreen.  Available online but also potentially at other retailers like Costco and Galt Baby.  I just ordered a bottle and will report back...
  • Ava Anderson's products.  These must be ordered online.  I've never used this...anyone else?

Step 3.  
  • When in doubt, look for the only active ingredient to be Zinc oxide with a short ingredient list after that.
  • Zinc oxide is EWG’s first choice for sun protection. It's stable in sunlight and can provide greater protection from UVA rays than titanium oxide or any other sunscreen chemical approved in the U.S. (Schlossman 2005).  UVA rays are the ones we in the US aren't getting enough protection from as our FDA regulations only allow certain ingredients to be used for this whereas in Europe there are more and better options.  
  • The rest of the sunscreen's ingredients are just carriers to make the lotion spreadable, scented, absorbed, moisturizing, stabilize other chemicals or last longer.  Just like with your food, if the ingredient list is long and difficult to pronounce, it probably shouldn't go in your mouth OR on your skin!  The Crunch Moose blog gives a detailed list of harmful chemicals in many sunscreens and why they should be avoided including disrupting progesterone and estrogen levels, links to endometriosis and decreased sperm counts.

Step 4:
Remember the EWG's 7 sunscreen DONT'S:
1. No sprays: It's really dangerous to inhale those chemicals (some potential carcinogens).
2. No Super-high SPFs: they don't work much better and leave you with a false security.
3. No Oxybenzone.  If you remember any chemical name from this post, this is the one to avoid!  Oxybenzone acts like estrogen in the body and can be a common allergen.
4. No loose powder sunscreens (same reasons as #1)
5. No retinyl palmitate: It's a form of vitamin A and it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun.
6. No combined sunscreen/bug repellent: The sunscreen's ingredients can cause increased skin absorption of potentially harmful repellent ingredients.
7. No tanning oils.  Obvious reasons here...
Step 5:
If you're really ambitious you could try making your own sunscreen using a recipe like this one from Scratch Mommy.  Has anyone ever tried this?  I'd be curious to know how it went...

Like I mentioned before, when in doubt, wear a great hat and cover your kiddos with rash guard shirts and hats.  And most importantly, happy summer!!
Does anyone have a favorite safe sunscreen or suggestions, opinions or thoughts on the matter?  

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