Protecting Your Kids from Sun: sunscreens the low down

By Jacalyn S Burke,

In the second part of our report on sunscreens and your baby – what you need to know  – we wanted to clarify the difference between sunscreens. This information was originally provided by the U. of California San Francisco – UCSF School of Medicine.

Physical Sunscreens
Physical sunscreens reflect or scatter UV radiation before it reaches
your skin. Some sunblocks combine both chemical and physical sunblocks.
The two types of physical screens that are available are zinc oxide
and titanium dioxide. Both provide broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
and are gentle enough for everyday use. Because these are physical
blocking agents and not chemicals, they are especially useful for
individuals with sensitive skin, as they rarely cause skin
irritation.(source UCSF)
Do not use sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months unless the
doctor directs you to do so. It is best for infants to stay out of the
sun and wear protective clothing (e.g., hats, long sleeves/pants) when
Some ingredients can increase skin sensitivity. If a sunscreen causes
redness or irritation, wash it off and stop using it. Talk to your
doctor or pharmacist about using another sunscreen product with
different ingredients.
Chemical sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the energy of UV radiation
before it affects your skin. Most chemical sunscreens are composed of
several active ingredients. This is because no single chemical
ingredient blocks the entire UV spectrum. Instead, most chemicals only block a narrow region of the UV spectrum.
Therefore, by combining several chemicals, with each one blocking a
different region of UV light, one can produce a sunblock that provides
broad spectrum protection. The majority of chemical agents used in
sunblock work in the UVB region. Only a few chemicals block the UVA
However, there is a real question mark on the safety of its use as
research has shown that the use of chemical sunscreen is linked to the
higher incidence of skin cancer due to its free radical generating and
DNA/hormone disrupting properties.
What’s more concerning is the way in which Oxybenzone (a common
sunscreen component) filters ultra violet light on the surface of the
skin by converting light to heat that can be absorbed through the skin.
This is disturbing because if light is converted to heat in the basal
layers of the skin, damage to growing cells is very likely.
Organic sunscreens
Organic sunscreens also work by providing a reflective barrier
against sun damage using active blocking agents zinc oxide or titanium
oxide. Organic sunscreens are chemical free and will not contain any
chemical UV-absorbers, synthetic preservatives, benzoates,
petrochemical, artificial fragrances, parabens, artificial flavors or
color and other harmful chemicals.
For people with sensitive and
allergy prone skin and for people who are concerned about cancer
inducing chemical ingredients used in chemical filters, then an organic
sunscreen may be a more suitable option. Also please be aware that
nanotechnology is being used even with the physical sunscreens zinc
oxide and titanium oxide. More studies are needed to determine their
safety. Please read below our shocking findings about Nanotechnology on
Our advice
Before buying a sunscreen read the ingredients carefully before
buying, and understand what chemicals are harmful if they are allowed to
build up in your infant’s body. There are other ways to protect your
children. These include dressing your infant in sun protective clothing,
and placing a wide-rimmed hat, and using infant sun glasses, and
providing adequate shade such as an umbrella or using natural shade and
limiting exposure on the hottest time of the day. Please see the
Environmental Working Group EWG
list of the safest sunscreens in the market. This guide will give you
the best advice on what is safest to use on your baby’s delicate skin.


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