With summer right around the corner you might be stocking up on sunscreen or sunblock. Skin cancer is on the rise and it is important to protect your skin and your baby’s skin. But is protecting your skin worth the exposure to all the chemicals found in sunblock? Some sunscreens are safer than others. This article will help you understand what makes one sunscreen different from another and help you select the safest sunscreen for you and your family.
Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen
There are two primary categories of sunscreen: chemical and mineral.
Chemical sunscreens are the most common sunscreens on the market. These include most of the products made by Banana Boat, Coppertone, Aveeno and many more. These sunscreens absorb into the skin which gives them the invisible look and feel. They offer good sun protection against UVA and UVB rays and tend to have high SPF ratings.
However, the chemicals that are absorbed into the skin are not always so benign. Some people have allergies or skin sensitivities to these chemicals. Additionally, research has found that these chemicals are hormone disruptors.
These chemicals include:
EWG reports that the most hazardous of the group is oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is an ingredient in more than half of the most common sunscreen brands and has weak estrogenic and strong anti-androgenic effects. The CDC detected oxybenzone in the urine of 96% of American children and adults. Oxybenzone has been found to decreased testosterone levels, suggesting men should also avoid this chemical when ttc. Oxybenzone is present in breast milk suggesting exposure while breastfeeding can put your newborn at potential risk.
The second most hazardous chemical of the group is Octinoxate. This chemical is another hormone disruptor and has been found to alter levels of sex hormones, thyroid hormones and behavior in animal models.
In general chemical sunblocks are more hazardous than mineral sunblocks. However, they do have their advantages. If you are going to select a chemical sunblock choose one without Oxybenzone or Octinoxate, such as SunBum Sunscreen Lotion or Ocean Potion Sunscreen Lotion.
Mineral sunscreen is less common, but is becoming more widely available. Neutrogena even recently came out with a mineral sunblock line. This type of sunscreen also protects against UVA and UVB rays. However, mineral sunscreens work by repelling the sun, as opposed to being absorbed by the skin. This means they are typically not invisible and can be more difficult to rub into the skin. The active ingredients in mineral sunscreens are the nanoparticles known as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients do not have the same effect on hormones and are generally considered to be safer than chemical sunblocks. Mineral sunscreens are the safest sunscreens for moms and babies.
Zinc Oxide is the preferred active ingredients by the EWG. It has better UVA coverage than titanium oxide and is stable when exposed to the sun.
Is Spray-on Sunscreen Safe?
No. All of these ingredients are not safe when inhaled. Even if you hold your breath while spraying, you can still ultimately inhale the chemicals. Although the spray-on variety is easy it’s not worth the risk. Even mineral sunblock can cause lung damage when inhaled. Lung damage can ultimately lead to cancer. Spend the time covering up or applying the sunblock lotion.
What are the Best and Safest Sunscreens for Babies and Moms?
Blue Lizard contains Titanum Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Not as ideal as my other recommendations. However, this brand is awesome because the actual bottle turns pink in the presence of UV rays. What a great reminder to put on more sunblock!
For more information on traveling while ttc, checkout my article on TTC over the holidays
You can also learn more by reading my article on Caffeine intake in pregnancy