June 30, 2013 3:25:37 PM EDT
The sun is out, the pool/sprinkler/yard is beckoning, and the kids' perfect skin is suddenly looking vulnerable. When wading through the information out there about sun (and sunscreen) safety, I found the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) guide to be the best place to start. In particular, their Top Sun Safety Tips lays out some basics (though, I have to admit, not with a straightforward layout!)
First off, if you can avoid sun exposure without any chemicals, do it. This means clothing, shade, sunglasses, and planning outdoor activities for hours of the day outside of the peak UV exposure in midday. This method of safe sunning is particularly useful for babies. They lack the tanning pigment, melanin, that protects their skin plus sunscreens aren't generally considered safe for babies under 6 months old. And if you're looking for something lightweight to protect your baby's arms or legs, you might consider BabyLegs Cool with SPF 50+ protection.
When looking at sunscreen labels, what should we be looking for? The EWG's most basic recommendations say this:
-vitamin A, also listed as retinyl palmitate or retinol
-insect repellent (buy it separately and apply it first)
-active ingredient zinc oxide, avobenzone and Mexoryl SX
-broad spectrum protection
The Google will also bring up articles and lists by various people, and Badger Baby sunscreens seemed to be at the top of every list I saw. I like it because it has relatively few ingredients, and the active ingredient is "non-nano, uncoated zinc oxide" (this "nano vs non-nano" and "coated vs. uncoated" stuff appears to be one of the latest points of research interest). It is a little thick and sometimes I see white left on Bean, but that's partly because he doesn't care to take the time to rub it in and he is applying it himself (and I don't really care if there is visible white protective smear on him).
Every sunscreen The Green Nursery carries gets a very safe score from EWG's Skin Deep Database (Badger, Alba Botanica, ThinkBaby), so I don't think there's any clearly wrong (or right) choice. I simply went with the one that met the basic criteria and had the fewest ingredients!
How about you? How did/do you choose your family's sunscreen?