June 10, 2007

the scoop on sunscreen

I did a bit of research on sunscreens this weekend so that I will be prepared for our next summer outing. Thanks to Suzanne who sent me a great resource to kick start my search: BeautyTruth.net This site is a fantastic overview of beauty/body products, including what to be concerned about and aware of. The author, Rose-Marie Swift, summarizes the dangers of various products and the importance of reading the ingredient lists. It is very compelling information and worth a read.

For sunscreen she advises to avoid the following:
diethylphthaltate (which may cause liver and kidney damage and reduce fertility)
Cotyl-Methoxy-Cinnamates (OMC)
Octyl-Dimethyl-Para-Amino-Benzoic Acid (OD-PABA)
Homosalate (HMS)
Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)

The first thing I checked was the labels on all the tubes of sunscreen we have in the house. I suspected the standard drugstore variety would be prone to cheaper chemicals, but I was surprised to see some of the products which I had bought at a natural foods store contained these "no-no" ingredients as well.

One of my former favorites (as of yesterday) had been Alba Sun Kids sunscreen. I see now that it contains Oxybenzone, Homosalate, and parabens. Oops!

I was getting a little overwhelmed and wondered if perhaps the list of "bad" ingredients was too vigilant. I wondered it I was just making myself crazy for nothing.

I looked up a popular baby sunscreen on the Skin Deep website just for the sake of comparison. Coppertone Water Babies got a pretty bad rating (8 out of 10, with 0 being the safest). The rating was due to ingredients linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, allergens, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), enhanced skin absorption, contamination concerns, occupational hazards, and biochemical or cellular level changes. Yikes! Maybe there is something to what the Beauty Truth message.

I decided to look online for some products that might be safer. I figured I could research online and go to my local Whole Foods to see them in person.

There were two products I was interested in, but the store did not carry them. I would still like to learn more about Aubrey's Natural Sun SPF 25 Green Tea Protective Sunscreen. It has a good rating on the Skin Deep website (a 2), despite containing Padimate O.

I also would like to see an ingredient list for Super Goop, which sounds interesting. It is not in the Skin Deep database, so I have no idea what is in the product exactly.When I learn more about these products I will be sure to post the info.

While at the store I ended up buying two others to try. One is the California Baby SPF 30 (non-chemical sunscreen) Even the label says: contains no parabens, sodium benzonate, benzoic acid, benzyl alcohol, or phenoxyethanol. This product gets an excellent rating at the Skin Deep website, a 1 out of 10 (zero being best).

I also bought Alba Botanica Kids Mineral Sunscreen SPF 18. (This is a mineral based formulation from the brand I liked previously). The main ingredient is titanium dioxide, like the California Baby product. However, I see it contains benezyl alcohol, so I wonder about that. But, it is almost $10 cheaper!

I used to use the California Baby on my first child when he was an infant. I think I stopped because it goes on kind of white and thick. After trying the Alba mineral sunscreen it seems to me that perhaps all the titanium products do have kind of a white, ghostly cast to them. Not the end of the world, but kind of unfortunate.

Now that I am convinced it is important to find a safe sunscreen product I am still unsure which one to use. I am not a chemist so it is hard for me to know if I had to pick between 2 ingredients that were questionable (such as padimate O and benzyl alcohol), which would be worse.

These little tubes are expensive, too! I don't think I can keep everyone inside all summer so I guess I'll have to use something. Do you have a favorite? Let me know!


Debbie said...


Here's the SuperGoop "active" ingredients, according to their website:

"Q: What are the active ingredients in Supergoop?"
A: Octinoxate 7.5%
Padimate O 7%
Octisilate 3%
Avobenzone 2% (Parsol 1789)
Octocrylene 1.4%

You can at least search for some of the individual ingredients on SkinDeep, even if they don't have the lotion listed. Some of them seem to be a 3-4 rating. I was thinking of trying the Aubrey Organics, but also can't find it locally (at least not yet). Think it is sold online, though.

Cost factor is definately a consideration; our local natural market sells a little teeny tiny tube of the Cali Baby for $18!! Yikes!

Curious to know what others find out!

Anonymous said...

I've switched to Blue lizard. It is a 3 on the skinDeep site, is available through Coolibar.com and even comes in a gallon size.

I love the green tea one, but it tends to separate in the bottle a bit.

Anonymous said...

This was a great post!

Just today my daughter had a bad reaction to a suncream which was labelled as suitable for children.

She broke out in a vicious red itchy rash within a very short time of it being applied - so I for one will be following your advice from now on and looking for something a lot less chemical!

mom go green said...

thanks for the tip cmomgo! i like the coolibar website (my kids wear their suits) so i was psyched to see your suggestion.

i'm still not sure though since the blue lizard contains octinoxate, oxybenzone, propylene glycol, methylparaben, ethylparaben, and propylparaben. one kind of the product got a 3 on skin deep but the rest got 7s.

i wish i knew just how bad octinoxate is, because it sure seems to be in lots of brands i would like to use (including brands i have been using for years!)

I'll have to see if i can find some kind of unbiased information about it. any chemists out there???

Gift of Green said...

Thanks for another great timing post (along with the bug sprays...)


Anonymous said...

Hi, I like your post, it is well written and informative.

I have been using a sunscreen from a company called Melaleuca Inc for the last 4 years. It has a number of active ingredients
Zinc Oxide
Ethylhexyl Methoxcinnamate
Ethylhexyl Saicylate

The company itself does not appear in the Skin Deep database but has been around for some 22 years. I understand that they have a position similar to the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, not using harmful ingredients.

I have found it to be highly effective on my children with no negative effects.

Hope that this helps


Jojo said...

You can make your own sunscreen lotions. Check out recipes here:

Anonymous said...

The only two sound choices from that EWG list are #s 1, 4 & 6 at the top...o--You're best off to use any of the UV Natural Sunscreens -- which are EXCELLENT, highly water resistant and infant-safe, too!!...The Badger is also a good choice but it's safe for kids on up, not babies. If you want a good SPF15, use Kabana. That's it!!I'd say and so would those who are really in the know -- that 99% of the sunscreens on the market are TOXIC -- not just 80%! Titanium dioxide is toxic -- and so are all the chemicals you canot spell. California Baby isn't any better than the other chemical sunscreens. Neither is Jasons. Neither is Burt's Bees. Neither is Alba or Aubrey! Do some real research for yourself -- and check out the research on titanium dioxide and other chemicals at www.sunscreenresearch.com. Only zinc oxide is safe -- seriously!! Find something like UV Natural at an eco-friendly website like wetsand.com or katescaringgifts.com where I have seen UV Natural. Isn't it worth the effort to protect your child and yourself!!

Unknown said...

Hi! I just found your blog & am excited to find another mom - albeit on the web - who is trying to do it right! I checked out your post on suncreens just to see if you had reached the same conclusion that I have. It turns out that the person who left the last comment agrees with me: UV Natural. Have you tried it yet? The ingredients, while not organic (which I would prefer), are all great. My son & I have MEGA-sensitive skin, but I use this everywhere - including our faces - with no problem at all. It rocks. Try it out! Anyway, I'm happy to have found you & will look forward to reading your blog. I'm a bit of an OCD-researcher, so I have entirely too much knowledge about anything that may relate to the health of my family. Your take will be a welcome addition!


Marnie said...

Hi there - just found your site and have to comment on the titanium dioxide issue. If you need to use something with titamium dioxide in it, you WANT that whitish cast because otherwise the particles have been made so small that they are absorb-able (sorry - hasty typing going on here) by the skin (as in any cosmetics containing this), in which case it is a neurotoxin with Parkinsons-like side affects after long term use. Sorry, no references right now, but the info is definitely out there and mainstream.
Looking forward to reading more of your stuff - I'm on a similar journey!

allorganic said...

I sell these products so I just want you to know that. There is a sunscreen that is on the low hazard rating on EWG that you have not mentioned :Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm:

The Miessence Reflect Outdoor Balm has a stated SPF of 15 but it has been tested and verified that it actually has an SPF of 30.

It has a 2 rating on the EWG skin deep data base.

There are 67 Miessence products listed on the skin deep data base and 2 is the highest rating we have for any or our products. A rating of 2 or under is a "low hazard" rating.

This is a physical blocker sunscreen using Zinc Oxide. The Miessence sunscreen does not use Titanium Dioxide. While the rating for Titanium Dioxide is similar to the rating for Zinc Oxide on EWG, one of the things they do not tell you is that Titanium Dioxide is an unstable ingredient.

When Titanium Dioxide is exposed to UV light, it causes free radicals. Most companies are coating their Titanium Dioxide with something, like aluminum to stop this from happening. That is not stated on their labels anywhere.

I am an Independent Representative with ONE Group, the company that creates the Miessence products.

I am also the representative that worked with the ONE Group to get all of the Miessence products listed in the Environmental Working Group's data base.

We have been a signer of the campaign for safe cosmetics for at least 4 years now.

I understand that cost is an issue for many people, the trade off of using polluted products is becoming larger every day as we know more and more about the issue of body burden. This is the accumulation of toxins in our body. And the pollution to the environment by the chemical companies that create these ingredients.

To learn more about Body Burden you can go to this site:

There is more than just the issue of putting this on your body, when you consider that all of these chemicals must be manufactured and then what happens from all the pollution that the chemical companies are creating when producing these chemicals?

This is a much larger issue at hand here, one of significant proportion to the world wide environment. This means that it is very important to look beyond the basic chemicals in your personal care products.

We are putting these chemicals on our bodies but then we are also washing them down the drain into the environment and they are being manufactured in huge quantities an polluting the world.

I have become very passionate about this issue, it's beyond what I'm putting on my skin.

Personally, I do not use sunscreen. I think a person is better off to manage their sun exposure and not slather on sunscreen.

I recommend the ebook that is written by Debra Lynn Dadd (www.dld123.com) she is great and is very knowledgeable about issues of toxic chemicals.

Debra's Guide to Choosing Natural Sun Protection for a $3.00 download.

This simple guide offers a natural alternative for sun protection. Instead of constantly slathering your skin with sunscreen, find out how you can choose from several natural options to create a Safe Sun Strategy that gives you the protection you need when you need it. Learn why our bodies need some exposure to the sun for good health and how you can enjoy the healing benefits of sunlight safely. Written by Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home, and an internationally recognized consumer advocate for health and the environment. 27 pages.

I guess that's my rant for the day.

My best to everyone, and I hope you will consider this a much larger issue, one that is critical for a clean and healthy planet.

Erin Ely

Anonymous said...

I tried the UV Natural and hated it. It's so greasy and thick.

Anonymous said...

I went on a similar quest last year and settled on this brand, EcoLani. It goes on pretty white but I decided I could live with it for the piece of mind.

Anonymous said...

I just came back to this page, I had bookmarked it a long time ago and now I have a 5 mo. old and am planning to be out in the sun all day tomorrow. Plan A is to keep her very well covered. Plan B was to use California Baby b/c we use all of their other products, but now I'm not sure. I might return it and just use the diaper cream. The main ingredieint there is zinc oxide, so it seems like that should do the trick. I would love to see you revisit this topic before we get into summer. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Check out the Beach Block on busybeeskincare.com. It's chemical free and tinted so it blends into skin without the white clown face look!

Anonymous said...

you won't find anything better than the MiEssence line. It comes out of Australia, but can be ordered over the internet thru US companies. The product is called Reflect OUtdoor Balm SPF 15. It contains no nanoparticles. Most of the ingredients are BFA organic certified. Ful ingredient list is: microfine zinc oxide (NOT nanotechnology), olive oil, shea butter, beeswax, oat kernel, polygonum multiforum root extract, caranuba wax, essential oils for aroma, rosemary leaf extract, algae extract. This stuff sticks on in the water. Skin will be a bit white though til the products warms up and sinks in. On another note, their desert flower shampoo is also great as it is the only shampoo that I know of that uses NO chemical sudsing agent. That component comes from the yucca plant. I use their stuff all the time, no complaints so far on any of their product range. It really is the purest stuff I've found on the market yet. Lee Ann

Anonymous said...

check out Native Maui Sunscreen at nativemauiproducts.com. It comes in SPF from 2-50 and a wide variety of scents, including fragrance- free. It contains many antioxidant rich organic ingredients, organic oils, essential oils, organic butters, botanical and fruit extracts and vitamins. Native Maui Sunscreens and Lotions have a rich texture, that rub in easily with a light, non- greasy feel with natural emollients for essential hydration. It uses zinc oxide for broad spectrum UVA/B protection and organic waxes for natural water resistance. Contains no chemicals, no synthetic dyes or preservatives,and no paragons,