Understanding Safer and Non-Toxic Sunscreens for Babies and Toddlers

Your baby tender skin is ultra sensitive.  That’s why I’ve put in time to research everything that touches babies’ skin, including sunscreen/sunblock.

You may have noticed that the use of the word “sunblock” has lessened.   As of 2013, the FDA has banned such use of the term “sunblock” from manufacturers because it can lead consumers to think or rely on marketing that a product can block 100% of the sun’s rays.  However, due to habit, you’ll hear some people use the words sunblock and sunscreen synonymously.

Types of suncreen

Sunscreens can be classified into:

  • physical sunscreens  (mineral sunscreen that reflect the sunlight) or
  • chemical sunscreens (absorbs then releases heat)

What can be confusing about chemical sunscreens is that they are often referred to as chemical or organic absorbers.  Chemical sunscreens contain organic absorbers (carbon-based) compounds, such as octinoxate, octisalate, avobenzone and oxybenzone which work to create a chemical reaction, changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin.   The byproducts of this reaction are free radicals.  Because of this and the ingredient listing in chemical sunscreens, there is some controversy that it may actually cause cancer.  Yep.  The sunscreen that you thought would protect you against skin cancer, may cause cancer in addition to hormone disruption and skin allergies.

Conventional manufacturer sunscreen and chemical sunscreen are loaded with chemicals, including, but not limited to:

  • Parabens and phthalates, a carcinogen
  • Oxybenzone, an endocrine disruptor that could free radicals when exposed to UV light.
  • PEG’s (polyethylene glycols) which are petroleum compounds used in skin care, can be contaminated with other chemicals/substances and functions as a “penetration enhancer,” increasing the permeability of the skin to allow greater absorption of the product — including harmful ingredients[1]
  • Propylene Glycol, a skin softener. The EWG links it to cancer, reproductive damage, and extreme skin irritation
  • SLS/SLES, a synthetic detergent. These are often cited as carcinogens

[1]  Epstein, S with Fitzgerald, R. Toxic Beauty. Dallas: BenBella Books, 2009: 158-9.

Here’s the list for the safest, non-toxic sunscreens.

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