Friday, June 26, 2015

How to choose suncare

Today I'd like to welcome my good friend Melody on the blog! She's a mom of three and someone who I can always count on to look at the facts at face value.

A little about Melody..
I became a mother shortly after graduating from college. These last 7 years I have been sharing my time between local sustainability leaders and my three beautiful, nature-loving, crayon-eating children. 

Through all of this, I've come to understand that taking care of our internal environments (bodies) needs to be a priority.  And stress can be just as toxic to our bodies as all the scary synthetic chemicals that we are being exposed to. So, it's all about balance. I'm glad to be able to share some of what I have learned with you. 

The warm weather season brings a whole new list of skin care products for our little ones, but not
all skin care products are created equally, and “natural” means absolutely nothing. The challenge
for us parents its to ignore the hype, and somehow find time to gather the right facts, so that we
can outsmart the ad companies and choose the products that are actually best for our families.

Easier said than done.

The store aisles have too many choices, and maybe none of the right choices. Products have long lists of hard to pronounce ingredients, and lots of confusing or misleading messaging! And who has time to do all that research!?

Well, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) does! Their website is fantastic!

If you get a chance, I highly recommend you spend some time exploring all of their resources. You can search any skin care product and it will give you a report, showing the concerns for each ingredient. Even if they don't have the product already in the database, you can enter the ingredients by hand and it will generate a customized report for you!

I went through my house and grabbed all the kids products I have, and ran reports on them,
including their score on a scale of 0­-10 where 0 means “good, harmless”, and 10 means “really bad, toxic”.

Here's my list with a link to the full report for each. (link)

If you find that many of the products in your home contain harmful chemicals, don't feel guilty. You didn't buy them for their side effects. You made a good decision with the information you had at the time. And don't feel the need to throw them all out at once and buy new. That would be wasteful and expensive (I couldn't afford to do that!). Instead, just be open to learning, and when it  is time to buy new, consider choosing a safer replacement.

To me summer is all about hiking, camping and swimming and sunbathing! 
How can I choose safe products for my family?

Here's some information I have gathered from the EWG on seasonal products.

How do you keep the bugs away without DEETing your babes? My recommendation: non­toxic deet­free sprays, or essential oils! Find out more about what the American Academy of Pediatrics has to say about insect repellants.

SUNSCREEN tips from the EWG:
Say no to:
• SPF above 50
• Retinyl palmitate
• Aerosol spray and powder sunscreen
• Oxybenzone
• Added insect repellent

Say yes to:
• Hats and shade in mid­day sun
• Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide as active ingredients, otherwise Avobenzone (at 3%)
• SPF 15 to 50, depending on your own skin coloration, time outside, shade and cloud cover.
• Use a lot and reapply frequently

The EWG has a fairly exhaustive list of products found on the market, but here are a few seasonal products to absolutely avoid because of their rating on the EWG scale:

:( Sunscreens :(
Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Radiant Tinted Moisturizer, Medium Sheer Tint
Banana Boat Protective Tanning Dry Oil Continuous Spray Sunscreen

:( After Sun :(
ULTA Refresh Redness Relief Continuous Spray
CVS Aftersun Redness Relief Continuous Spray
Ocean Potion Suncare Therapeutic Hemp Seed After Sun Lotion

There are lots of good middle ground choices, but if you're for the best of the best, here are some
seasonal products that get a perfect score from the EWG:

:) Sunscreen :)
Pure Daily Essentials Body Glow Sun Bar
Luminance Skincare Sunscreen
Healthy Home Company Sunscreen Broad Spectrum, SPF 32
Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30
Just Skin Food Natural and Organic Sunscreen, SPF 30
The Honest Company Honest Sunscreen Stick, SPF 30
Nurture My Body Sunscreen Fragrance Free, SPF 32

:) After Sun :)
Aromatica Organic Aloe Vera Gel
Belly Buttons & Babies After Sun Body Lotion
Pure Daily Essentials Body Glow Sun Bar
Vika's Essentials Prodigal Sun Oil Blend
Banana Boat Sooth­A­Caine Aloe Mist Spray

But, what's so bad about “chemicals”?
So glad you asked...

The toxic chemicals I worry about, are the ones that often resemble hormones. Hormone-
mimicking, aka endocrine disrupting chemicals can be especially worrisome in babies and young children who are still developing and growing. Research suggests these chemicals may cause:

• Reductions in male fertility and declines in the numbers of males born.
• Abnormalities in male reproductive organs.
• Female reproductive health issues, including fertility problems, early puberty, and early
reproductive senescence.
• Increases in mammary, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
• Increases in immune and autoimmune diseases, and some neurodegenerative diseases.

While there is still a lot we do not know, many of us agree that it is better to be safe, and limit our
exposure to these chemicals. Here is the EWG's Dirty Dozen of Endocrine Disruptors

I'd don't want to expose myself and my family to these nasty chemicals, 
but they seem to be everywhere. Where do I even begin!?

Start small. Small changes add up, and small changes actually last. Here are some guidelines to get started:

  1. Give yourself credit for making one small change that you can stick with, instead of trying to unrealistically tackle the universe in one shopping trip.
  2. Look at labels for the items you use daily, and let yourself relax on the rest.
  3. Look at labels for what you use that you don't wash off (like lotion and hand sanitizer) and cut yourself some slack on the others.
  4. Don't let guilt or flashy ads control you!
  5. When it comes to kids, think “could they eat it?” Because you know, they probably will!
Thanks for reading,

Disclosure: We are not healthcare providers! 
The information on this post is intended to encourage (and advise) readers to do their own research. 
Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. 


  1. Thanks for this post we are out at the pool a lot and I've always bought a high spf thinking it would be best! I knew about the sprays not being good, unfortunately I sent my husband to the store and that's what he bought :(

  2. Thank you for this post. I have had the most difficult time choosing sunscreen for our daughter. So far, we have just utilized shade and hats.

  3. Great tips- my little one has my coloring so I'm super diligent when we're out and about. We've made it 15 months without a sunburn (for her... I'm less diligent with myself, alas).

  4. Wow. Thank you so much for all of this information. We are so fair around here and living in Southern California. My first line of defense is always shade and clothing. My 9 month old daughter won't leave the house without her hat. :) we all need sunscreen at some time though, and how scary it is to choose! I'm so glad for this resource to check products!



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