Clean Sunscreen Picks for the Kiddos

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I’ve gotten a lot of requests for a children’s sunscreen guide, so Annabel and I have been testing away in the sunshine.  It’s been very hard work.  🙂

First, I want to say that in my humble opinion, the fear of sun exposure has reached hysterical levels in the US.  A little bit of sun is good for us and our children.  A 2009 study found that 70% of American children had very low vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D deficiencies are linked to cancer, multiple sclerosis, depression, obesity, hormone imbalances and heart disease.  We still must protect ourselves and our children from premature aging and skin cancer, but before you reach for your good ol’ stand-by sunscreen, WAIT.

Mineral oil.  Petrolatum.  Glycerin (the non-vegetable variety).  Synthetic fragrance.  Parabens.  Dimethicone.  Propylene glycol.  These ingredients have been proven to be endocrine (hormone) disruptors, carcinogens, skin irritants, and toxins that are difficult or impossible for the liver and kidneys to metabolize.  These are probably in your current sunscreen and these are just the inactive ingredients.

The active ingredients in most conventional sunscreen (benzophenone, homosalate, octinoxate, octyl-methoxycinnamate, oxybenzone, PABA, or padimate-O) are chemical blockers, meaning that they absorb UV rays before they can damage your skin. This sounds good, but these chemicals have scary consequences. For instance, you’ll see that many sunscreens boast “PABA-free” on the front of the bottle. That is because PABA, or padimate-O, is a known carcinogen. Oxybenzone, probably the most popular chemical blocker currently used, is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor. It is easily absorbed into the body, and if you peed into a cup right now, it would be detected in your urine (even if you haven’t been using sunscreen lately).

Alas, there are safe, effective options available, you just need to read labels.  Look for zinc-oxide and titanium-dioxide.  These are natural, mineral-based physical blockers and they block or deflect UVA and UVB rays.  Make sure to avoid nano-particles when it comes to zinc-oxide.  (Nano-particles of zinc-oxide create a sheer finish, but they’ve bee proven to be dangerous, as they are so tiny that they can penetrate into cells and DNA.)  And make sure you check out the inactive ingredients on the label, too!  Some of my favorites for children:

Product-65-slide_with_zoom-1c4b004f-2d0e-4b63-9b1e-a80ee83d963cThe Honest Company’s SPF 30 Sunscreen is great for the entire family.  It doesn’t leave a chalky white film and it is extremely moisturizing.  I’ve been very pleased with its performance.  This formula does contain three ingredients that do not have any data on them, good or bad, on EWG’s Skin Deep database, just FYI.  Cost: about $14 for 3 oz.  Purchase it here.

Ingredients: Non-Nano Zinc Oxide 20% (Mineral Sunscreen), Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Beeswax*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Calendula Officinalis Flower Extract*, Chamomilla Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Extract*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter* (*Certified Organic Ingredient)


Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen SPF 30 is perfectly Clean and great for babies and those with sensitive skin.  Without using nano or micronized particles, the zinc-oxide goes on sheer.  It is also very moisturizing without being greasy and it absorbs easily.  This formula does contain a very small amount of Sodium Benzoate, but the EWG rates this ingredient a 1 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Personally, I think the benefits of this sunscreen outweigh the risks.  Cost: about $12 for 3 oz.  Purchase it here.

Ingredients: Zinc Oxide, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Juice, Water (aqua), Camelia Sinensis (Green Tea) Extract*, Glycerin, Caprylic Capric Triglyceride, Rosa Canina (Rose Hip) Fruit Oil*, Buriti (Mauritia Vinifera) Fruit Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, GlycerylStearate, Methylcellulose, Stearic acid, Olea Europaea(Olive) Oil*, Butyrospermun Parkii (Shea Butter)*, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Oil, XanthanGum, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate, Ethyhexyl Glycerin. *Certified Organic Ingredients


Badger is another awesome Clean company that makes solid sunscreens for the whole family.  I like their Chamomile & Calendula SPF 30 Baby formula for Annabel.  There is not even one iffy ingredient in this formula, but it is not as sheer as some of the others out there (not that our babies are trying to look like supermodels in the sand).  Cost: about $15 for 3 oz.  Purchase it here.

Ingredients: Non-Nano, Uncoated Zinc Oxide 18.75%, *Helianthus Annuus (Organic Sunflower) Oil, *Cera Alba (Organic Beeswax), Tocopherol (Sunflower Vitamin E), CO2 Extracts of *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Organic Seabuckthorn), and *Calenduls Officinalis (Organic Calendula), *Anthemis Nobilis (Organic Chamomile) Essential Oil.  * = Certified Organic

I am also working on an updated sunscreen guide for adults, but in the meantime, take a look at my Clean sunscreen picks from last year here, here and here.