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Katy Farber's picture

photo (4)One of my least favorite things about parenting is applying sunscreen to my small children. The kids despise it. They squirm. They scowl. They walk away. It takes parental persistence and fortitude to apply sunscreen-- and then, 2 hours later (or sooner if you have a fair skinned kid like I do) to dry them off, and reapply.

 Add to that it is very hard to keep track of which ingredients are unsafe in conventional sunscreens. Several have been linked to health problems and should be avoided. What do you need to know? Here are some tips for finding safer sunscreens. Many of these tips were shared during last week's #EcoTipTue. Be sure to join us this week as we discuss safer cosmetics with scientists from the Environmental Working Group!

  1. Avoid the ingredient Oxybenzone. It is linked to cancer, acts as an endocrine (hormone) disrupter, and makes chemicals more absorbable in the skin. Yuck!  

2. Avoid the ingredient retinyl palminate which is ironically linked to skin cancer in animal tests!  Take note: sometimes retinyl palminate is listed as vitamin A or “retinol.”  

3. Find safer products. Use the Environmental Working Group's safer sunscreen guide (updated every year!) and Safe Mama's Sunscreen Cheat Sheet as a resource for finding brands that use safer ingredients and still protect your kids from the sun.  

4. Use a sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 and a maximum of SPF 50, higher doesn’t do anything more and causes more chemical exposure!  

5. Avoid using sunscreen with bug repellent because together they increase the absorption of the chemicals in both products. Thanks to for this great tip!  

6. Don't use spray sunscreens, they are unsafe because of risks of inhaling the particles from the sunscreen.  

7. Remember these sunscreen-free ways of avoiding a sun burn!

  • Have kids play in morning and later in afternoon (with non-toxic sunscreen!) when rays aren’t so bright.
  • Bring a beach tent. Find shade.
  • Hats and sunglasses-- even for toddlers and small kids.
  • Have kids wear swim shirts.
  • Avoid the sun when it is at its strongest-- from 10-4pm if possible.
8.  Remember to reapply your non-toxic sunscreen every 2 hours (or right after swimming) to avoid sunburns. Great tip from Jen from Jen and Joey Go Green: set a timer on your phone to go off so you don't forget to reapply!
9.  Look for a FULL ingredient list!  Responsible companies are listing all the ingredients in their products.
10. Don't be afraid of the white paste! You have to rub non-toxic sunscreens into the skin. That is how you know they are safer. It's a trade off worth making to reduce chemical exposures.
What are your tips for safer, non-toxic sunscreens? 


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