Looking for a sunscreen for your children that is both safe and effective can be challenging! With so many sun protectors marketed for children, how do you know which one is best? First, know that most sun protectors marketed for children are just that… marketing. When it comes to active ingredients, there really is no difference between SPF for adults and SPF for children. Keeping that in mind and arming yourself with the following information will help you make the best decisions when it comes to protecting your little ones from the sun:
1. Look for a physical sun barrier, NOT a chemical sun screen.
In the world of sun protection, there are two different approaches: chemical based sunscreens and physical sun barriers. A chemical approach involves applying a layer of ingredients that are absorbed by the skin. The challenge with this approach is these chemical ingredients are not only absorbed by the skin, but they also work their way into the blood stream and are processed by the body. Many of these chemical sunscreens present potential side effects including hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity, and production of free-radicals (damaging the skin cell DNA).
A physical barrier between the skin and the sun is the safest option when it comes to protection from damaging UV rays. Physical barriers absorb and deflect UV radiation before it ever penetrates the skin. These mineral based ingredients sit on the surface of the skin, and are never absorbed by the body. Look for topical, mineral based ingredients (we love Zinc Oxide) and know that your children are getting broad-spectrum protection… safely.
Bottom line: Avoid Octylmethylcinnamate, Oxybenzone, Avobenzone, Benzophone, Mexoryl, PABA or PARSOL 1789, and search for the Zinc Oxide instead.
2. Be wary of water resistant formulas.
Let’s face it… kids hate sunscreen time. It means interrupting their Marco Polo session and getting them out of the pool. Those water resistant claims on sunscreens can create a tempting thought of letting them enjoy their time in the sun for hours on end without re-application…but in reality, those water resistant formulas aren’t truly delivering extended protections. Although these formulas may seem hardier than regular protectors, unless your little one sits perfectly still while at the pool, they won’t protect the skin past a short swim session and a quick drying off with a towel. This leaves us with one question: are the binding agents used to create water resistant formulas worth it? Our little buddies have skin that is prone to heightened sensitivities and reactions, and these water resistant ingredients can irritate their fragile skin.
Bottom line: Get those kids out of the pool and re-apply often. Don’t assume that the product is providing extended protections just because it has a water resistant claim on the label.
3. Remember that the safest way to apply SPF is the old-fashioned way.
Those spray-on sunscreens may seem convenient, but at what cost? Recently, the FDA began investigating the safety of spray sunscreens. These sprays are traditionally chemical based, and are more likely to be inhaled by the child, leading to unknown safety hazards. Until a determination has been made, we suggest foregoing the convenience of a spray for the safety of a spread-on SPF.
Bottom line: The high-tech SPF sprays may seem easy, but the safest form is the old fashioned lotion form.
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