The Environmental Working Group has released its 2017 Guide to Sunscreens report, which includes the 14 worst-scoring sunscreens for babies and young children.
As parents, we want to believe that applying sunscreen to our children is protecting them from the sun's potentially-harmful rays. But according to a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG), some sunscreens can actually be unsafe for kids and babies.
Some sunscreens performed well on tests in the EWG's 2017 Guide to Sunscreens. By and large they were all mineral-based with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as active ingredients. Parents should still be wary of products that contain low percentages of these ingredients because, according to the report, they may contain other ingredients that boost the SPF on the label without actually protecting from other skin damages.
Ingredients to avoid that may pose safety concerns include: retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that is linked to sun sensitivity, and oxybenzone, which, frighteningly, is a hormone disrupter. Another red flag to steer clear of when shopping for sunscreen for your family is an SPF of over 50. I'll admit I thought the higher the SPF, the better I was protecting my kids.
Sonya Lunder, EWG senior analyst and lead author of the 2017 Guide to Sunscreens, told Parents.com, "People select products based on their SPF, or sunburn protection factor, and mistakenly assume that bigger numbers are better. Consumers think that they'll get twice as much protection from an SPF 100 sunscreen as from an SPF 50 product."
But as Lunder explained to us, "In reality, the extra protection is negligible. For example, an SPF 50 sunscreen that is properly applied will block 98 percent of UVB rays; an SPF 100 sunscreen will block 99 percent. In reality people rarely apply enough sunscreen to achieve this level of protection." She added, "Every sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours, so when used correctly, sunscreen with SPF values in the range of 30 to 50 will offer adequate sunburn protection, even for people most sensitive to sunburn."
With Lunder's advice in mind, parents should avoid these 14 products that received low scores in EWG testing:
- Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
- Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
- Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
- Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
- Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
- Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
- Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
- Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
- Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
- CVS Health Children's Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
- Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
- Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
- Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55
You can click on each product link to read more about why the sunscreen is a bad choice for your kids. Reasons include that the advertised SPF is higher than the actual protection it offers, that the sunscreen contains a potentially-harmful ingredient like oxybenzone, or that the aerosol spray design doesn't provide complete skin coverage.
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Here are more tips for safe and effective sunscreen use on kids from the EWG:
- Plan ahead and keep sun protection handy in the car or purse or diaper bag.
- Apply sunscreen even when kids aren't at the pool or beach. Just a few serious sunburns can increase a kid's risk of skin cancer later in life.
- Keep babies under 6 months in the shade, and use hats, protective clothes, pop-up tents, and umbrellas.
- Apply sunscreen generously 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply at least every two hours. Reapply sunscreen after sweating, getting wet, or towel drying. Don't forget to protect ears, noses, lips, and the tops of feet!
- Avoid aerosol sprays, as they provide inadequate and non-uniform skin coverage, and kids can also inhale the product.