As the days get warmer and the daylight hours get longer, many parents instinctively reach for the sunscreen to keep their kids’ skin protected. However, this very habit can actually put your child at risk.
That’s because some sunscreen contains questionable chemicals that can damage the skin and even contribute to the development of skin cancer (1). Plus, anyone with sensitive skin will tell you that even child-proof sunscreen can cause mild skin irritation and a burning sensation. In some children, the reaction is much more severe.
Just take it from Rebecca Cannon, whose 14-month-old daughter, Kyla, suffered burns after using “toddler-safe” sunscreen.
Cannon followed all the guidelines on the back of the sunscreen, which was approved for children 6 months and older, spraying the formula on her hands before applying it to Kyla’s skin.
Despite her best efforts, Kyla suffered severe second-degree burns, also known as chemical burns on her face without even going out in the sun.
“Kyla is back home after another hospital trip this morning due to extreme swelling but she is doing ok and is in good spirits .. please watch and be careful when using aerosolized sunscreen! I have done a lot of research. Since coming home and have found a disturbing amount of cases like ours. I don’t know why it’s not removed from the shelves !! Pictures from first to last is from yesterday morning to this afternoon please be careful the sunscreen used was banana boat spf 50 broad spectrum kids sunscreen — have spoken with banana boat and at this point besides a reimbursement for the product not sounding like they are going to do anything,” Cannon wrote in a Facebook post (2).
“I just want the word out for parents to be careful as to what they are putting on their children,” she told POPSUGAR (3).
How Sunscreen Works
Sunscreen typically includes a combination of two to six of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate, and octinoxate. Mineral sunscreen, which is stable in sunlight and protects against UVA and UVB rays use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for protection (4).
These mineral sunscreens aren’t completely safe either. Titanium dioxide has been proven to cause cell death and cancer (5).
Here are other common chemicals in sunscreen:
Sunscreen is not a bulletproof way to protect your skin:
“Stanford University dermatologists who reviewed CDC national survey data concluded that people who relied solely on sunscreens for sun protection had more sunburns than people who reported infrequent sunscreen use but wore hats and clothing to shield themselves from the sun. In Sweden, increased use of sunscreen by children was linked to more sunburns. Several other studies of real-world sunscreen use found that people who use sunscreen for skin protection during periods of intense UV exposure had more sunburns.” (6)
The best way to prevent sunburn is by avoiding the sun during peak hours of 10 am – 3 pm. If you have to go out during these hours, protect your skin with long, loose-fitting clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Tightly-weaved cotton and linen are great sun-shielding options. Bright fabrics will provide more protection than pale ones (7).
Additionally, choose shady spots when walking or sitting for long periods of time. Don’t hesitate to bring an umbrella to make your own shade at the beach or during your picnic.
You can also make your own sunscreen by following this non-toxic recipe:
If you’re not interested in making your own, here’s a list of safe sunscreens for kids that you can find almost anywhere:
- Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30+
- All Good Kid’s Sunscreen, SPF 30
- All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Babytime! by Episencial Sunny Sunscreen, SPF 35
- Badger Baby Sunscreen Cream, SPF 30
- Bare Republic Baby Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
- Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Baby, SPF 30+
- BurnOut KIDS Sunscreen, SPF 35
- California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen, SPF 30+
- Caribbean Sol Sol Kid Kare, SPF 30
- Goddess Garden Organics Baby Natural Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- Kiss My Face Organics Kids Sunscreen, SPF 30
- Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 50
- Sunology Natural Sunscreen Kids, SPF 50
- Sunumbra Sunkids Natural Sunscreen, SPF 40
- ThinkSport Kids Sunscreen, SPF 50+
- Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
- TruKid Sunny Days Sport Sunscreen, SPF 30
For more information on how this list was made, visit EWG.