I had a question on Facebook the other day from a parent who had read an article about Sunscreen and was a bit cautious and/or even a bit freaked out – not only about what she was putting on her baby’s skin, but what she was putting on her own skin as well. Since we sell sunscreens, I figured it might be helpful to have a bit of a decoding blog post to help parents understand sunscreen a bit better.
Things to understand about sunscreen is that you should always have to reapply throughout the day. It’s not natural to put something on your skin that just simply stays (or claims to) there until you scrub with soap. If you don’t have to reapply after going in the water, that’s because there is a chemical in the sunscreen to allow it to become “waterproof,” (the terms “waterproof” and “sweatproof” are banned on all SPF products in the US, by the way – we may be a different country, but skin is skin!).
So what do you want to look for in a sunscreen?
1. SPF up to 50
While you might think you’re getting twice or three times the protection with a seriously high number in the SPF column, an SPF of 50 should be just as sufficient. This is to say, don’t slather on an SPF 900 and think you’re good until your next birthday. Use any product higher than 50 the same way you would use a product with SPF 50. More on that here.
2. UVA vs UVB vs Broad Spectrum
Have you seen either of those things on the label and had no clue what it meant? Join the club! Just think of “A” as ‘age’ and “B” as ‘burn’ – which is what those two types of rays do. You need a sunscreen that either claims “broad spectrum” or that mentions it protects against UVA and UVB.
3. Ingredients to Avoid
In Canada, all sunscreens are regulated the same way that prescription drugs are, so everything that is in a sunscreen is deemed ‘safe’ for topical use. Naturalists, however, think otherwise. To find a sunscreen without the below ingredients, you will definitely be spending a bit more money.
Vitamin A – This is safe in many lotions that are applied indoors or at night, but can be harmful in sunscreens (that are typically applied in direct sunlight). It might show up on your sunscreen ingredient list as Retinyl palmitate. While it’s not a horrific thing by any means, some experts advise avoiding it (while some advise that it’s an approved ingredient). More on that here and here.
Oxybenzone - The description behind this is complicated so first take my word for it that it’s best to steer clear of it. Basically it pretends it’s estrogen in women and alters sperm production in men. It is also quite common for people to be allergic to it. I think I’ll pass on the Oxybenzone, thanks. More on that here and more on hormones and sunscreen here.
So now that I’ve completely freaked you out, I’ll tell you that there are sunscreens that don’t contain these ingredients. A few of which we carry.
And I’ll also say that sunscreen is better than no sunscreen, every time. Sunburns are harmful to your skin every time they happen. Always ensure you and your children are covered appropriately at the beach with either a parasol, hat or SPF-blocking sunwear, like SwimZip or Baby Banz, below.
Further Reading Material
- Sunscreen Ratings Above 50 Questioned
- Why is Sunscreen So Complicated?
- American Academy of Dermatology – Sunscreen