We want the best for our kiddos! Which is why I know you're reading this right now. This is a SUPER important topic. Our skin is our largest organ. We absorb almost EVERYTHING we put on our bodies. It is truly just as important, if not, more important than what we eat because it eventually goes into our bloodstream. We have been misled on sunscreens and I'd like to break it down & make it simple for you.
There are two sunscreens on the market; CHEMICAL SUNSCREENS & MINERAL SUNSCREENS. You want to buy sunscreen with the active ingredient ZINC OXIDE &/OR TITANIUM DIOXIDE (MINERAL SUNSCREENS). Avoid chemicals sunscreens like the plague! Chemical Sunscreens (the popular sunscreens most people know about ) contain hormone disrupting ingredients like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. If you read your labels, you are good to go!
How Sunscreens Work
In 2012, the FDA recalled the term "Sunblock" because there is no such thing as truly blocking the sun from your body. The chemical active ingredients in most sunscreens biodegrade via a chemical reactions with the sun. That's why you have to reapply every few hours because the sunscreen has literally broken down and is no longer working. The by-products of this chemical reaction produces free radicals. Free radicals cause damage to cells & DNA, and are linked to aging and even cancer. We produce free radicals everyday, but we definitely want to limit them if we can. (Antioxidants act like a sponge in getting rid of free radicals. Antioxidants come from fruits & vegetables).
The by-product of zinc oxide + sun is heat, and the byproduct of chemical sunscreens + sun is free radicals. A 2007 review in the Lancet even suggested that chemical sunscreens may increase predictors of melanoma and reported that “a recent systematic review failed to show a beneficial effect in preventing malignant melanomas by sunscreens.” (Lautenschlager, Wulf, Pittelkow; The Lancet 2007: Photoprotection). Dr. A. Bernard Ackerman is a Dermatologist who says the link between melanoma & sun exposure has not "been proven". Check out his article in the New York Times.
Cancer & Sunscreen Myth
"According to a June 2014 article featured in The Independent (UK), a major study conducted by researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that women who avoid sunbathing during the summer are twice as likely to die as those who sunbathe every day.
The epidemiological study followed 30,000 women for over 20 years and “showed that mortality was about double in women who avoided sun exposure compared to the highest exposure group.”
Researchers concluded that the conventional dogma, which advises avoiding the sun at all costs and slathering on sunscreen to minimize sun exposure, is doing more harm than actual good.
That’s because overall sun avoidance combined with wearing sunscreen effectively blocks the body’s ability to produce vitamin D3 from the sun’s UVB rays, which is by far the best form of vitamin D.
In the USA, vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic levels. Ironically, vitamin D deficiency can lead to aggressive forms of skin cancer. A ground-breaking 2011 study published in Cancer Prevention Research suggests that optimal blood levels of vitamin D offers protection against sunburn and skin cancer.
Additionally, vitamin D protects the body from diseases like multiple sclerosis, rickets (in the young), tuberculosis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjogren’s syndrome.
According to the Vitamin D Council, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recently reported that “lack of sun exposure may lead to cognitive decline over time.”Below are Ackerman’s views excerpted from an article in The New York Times (July 20, 2004), titled “I BEG TO DIFFER; A Dermatologist Who’s Not Afraid to Sit on the Beach”:
The link between melanoma and sun exposure (dermatology’s dogma) is unproven.There’s no conclusive evidence that sunburns lead to cancer.There is no real proof that sunscreens protect against melanoma.There’s no proof that increased exposure to the sun increases the risk of melanoma.
A 2000 Swedish study concluded that higher rates of melanoma occurred in those who used sunscreen versus those who did not.
Elizabeth Plourde, PhD, is a California-based scientist who authored the book Sunscreens – Biohazard: Treat as Hazardous Waste, which extensively documents the serious life-threatening dangers of sunscreens not only to people but to the environment as well.
Dr. Plourde provides proof that malignant melanoma and all other skin cancers increased significantly with ubiquitous sunscreen use over a 30-year period. She emphasizes that many sunscreens contain chemicals that are known carcinogens and endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC).
Environmentally, she notes: “In areas where there has been much exposure to ED [endocrine disrupting] chemicals, coral and other sea populations have died off and the prevalence of dual-sexed fish has risen.”
Dr. Plourde’s research on mice and sunscreen exposure also showed increases in both pup and maternal mortality as well as reproductive issues in subsequent generations" (Realfarmacy.com)
Natural sun protection
Eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet can actually help protect you from the sun. Eating lots of green leafy vegetables, fruit, healthy fats & avoiding processed foods, vegetable oils and sugar is key. There was a small study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology that suggests vitamin D may help protect your skin from sunburn. This is not medical advice, so make sure to take the measures you need to avoid burns.
Eating antioxidants which come from fruits & vegetables are extremely important. They help reduce inflammation & free radicals. I personally take concentrated juice powder from nonGMO fruits, vegetables & berries in capsule form (which happen to be the most researched nutraceutical in the world!) It has been shown to reduce systemic inflammation, increase serum antioxidants, increase skin microcirculation, reduce oxidative stress & more. Our kids take them in chewable form instead of capsules. I also take an omega blend that is a combination of omega 3,5,6,7 &9 fatty acids containing DHA, EPA and ALA, that are derived from fruits, algae and seed oils.
Safe Sunscreens for Kids
The EWG (Environmental Working Group) just came out with their 2018 Annual Safe Sunscreen Guide. They have listed SO many safe sunscreens- much more than I do here :) This is my list, but please know there are other safe, mineral sunscreens on the market.
- Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30 (EWG Score: 1 ). This was the first safe sunscreen I had found a decade ago. The only downside to this sunscreen is it leaves a white residue, and is hard to apply. It's my preferred sunscreen to use for babies since they don't mind if they look like a ghost :) It is also hard to lather up 5 kids in a pinch! I usually use this for my babies & toddlers
- Thinksport For Kids, SPF 50+. (EWG Score: 1). This does not really leave a white residue which we like. Thinksport also has sunscreen sticks that are rated a 1 on EWG.
- Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 30. (EWG Score: 3) Years ago, my husband said 'there has to be a nontoxic sunscreen that comes in a spray!!" I was on the hunt & found this one before it became available in stores. Now it's in many stores! It doesn't score as well as Badger & Thinksport but is very convenient when you are lathering up multiple kids, multiple times a day at the beach!
- Babyganics Mineral-Based Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50+ (EWG Score: 2)
- California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+ (EEWG Score: 1)
- Beautycounter Protect All Over Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 (EWG Score: 1)
Worst Sunscreens for your Kids
These sunscreens scored the worst because they have high SPF claims or had higher amounts of the additives oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Hawaii is actively trying to ban oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals are found in many popular sunscreens and are linked to hormone disruption in humans & the bleaching of coral reefs and coral death.
- Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100 (EWG Score: 10!!!!!!)
- Coppertone Water Babies Lotion Spray,SPF 50 (EWG Score: 7!)
- CVS Health Baby Lotion Spray Sunscreen, SPF 50 (EWG: 7!)
- Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70 (EWG: 7!)
- Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids, SPF 70 (EWG Score: 7!)
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen (EWG Score: 6)
- Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+ (EWG Score: 7!)
- Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Spray (Target brand), SPF 50 (EWG Score: 7!)