I have a story to tell you about my embarrassing friend. Here goes:
When we lived in Vancouver, BC, there was a beach volleyball tournament happening at Kits Beach, a major hotspot in the city. My little family and I, along with a friend, decided to take a stroll along the water and watch the volleyball games unfold. There were lots of vendors selling various things — food, hats, silly toys — as well as a highly reputable cancer charity asking for donations. Their marketing ploy was handing out little bottles of sunscreen made by a commercial, and very popular sunscreen brand. When someone took a bottle, the charity representative hit them up for a donation.
As we walked by, the charity fundraiser handed a little bottle to my friend, and my friend scoffed at her with utter disgust. He started yelling at this poor girl: “SERIOUSLY? YOU’RE GIVING ME THIS CRAP TO PUT ON MY SKIN? SHAME ON YOU!” The charity rep was taken aback and said, “It’s to PROTECT your skin from cancer.” This outraged my friend even more. So he yelled louder: “YEAH, I GET WHY YOU’RE GIVING ME THIS HORRIBLE SUNSCREEN — THE CHEMICALS IN IT WILL GIVE ME CANCER, SO THAT WAY YOU AND ALL YOUR BOSSES WILL HAVE JOBS FOR YEARS TO COME!”
I was MORTIFIED. I walked in the other direction, red-faced. I couldn’t believe my friend would make such a scene, or say such rude and terrible things. I gave him and earful and demanded he apologize. He refused. “They shouldn’t be giving that stuff out,” he said. “It’ll kill you.”
My family and I went home after that, our day ruined. Our friend stayed back to wander the beach alone. I thought about what happened, and what he said. Then I realized something: while his approach was totally off-base, he was right.
Most commercial sunscreens are really, really bad for your skin. They ARE full of chemicals and other garbage that actually CAN give you skin cancer. Here’s why: there are two kinds of sunscreen: mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen. The mineral sunscreens have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide — the kind of sunscreens that leave a thick white paste on your skin; whereas chemical sunscreens have chemicals like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Some of these chemicals are endocrine disruptors and can interfere with thyroid and hormone function in the body. One common sunscreen ingredient called retinyl palmitate, a derivative of Vitamin A, has been shown to speed up the growth of cancerous cells by 21%. Scary, right?
Not to mention, the majority of commercial, chemical-based sunscreens are rigorously tested on animals — you can only imagine what sunscreen animal testing might look like.
Luckily, there are many mineral sunscreens on the market that are safer for your baby’s and kid’s skin, that ALSO aren’t tested on animals or use animal-based ingredients. While mineral sunscreens do leave a white paste on the skin which some people might not like, to me it’s a bonus: putting sunscreen on kids is HARD — they become slippery, floppy, squirmy octopuses with one goal: TO GET OUTSIDE. So, with white sunscreen, you can actually see the spots you got and the spots you missed.
Here are our favourites that are EWG rated (see below for more information about EWG) with a 1, and that we feel are the best natural and vegan sunscreens for babies and kids:
- Matter Company Substance. I like this one the best because it smells like lemons, not the typical coconut smell! It’s SPF 30 and water-resistant. It contains organic ingredients and it’s key sunblock ingredient is zinc oxide. Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20%, water, helianthus annus* (sunflower seed oil), isoamyl cocoate, glycerin (vegetable), leuconostoc (radish root filtrate), calendula officinalis* pot marigold), hypericum perforatum* (St. John’s Wort) flowers, glyceryl stearate (vegetable emulsifier) sesamum indicum* (sesame) seed oil, butyrospermum parkii*(Shea Butter), cetyl alcohol, bentonite, simmondsia chinensis* (jojoba) seed oil, lavandula angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, citrus aurantium dulcis (orange) oil, pelargonium graveolens (geranium) oil, cymbopogon martini (palmarosa) oil, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, tocopherol, xanthan gum, vitis vinifera* (grape) seed extract, camellia oleifera* (green tea) extract *certified organic. Learn more here.
- Goddess Garden Organics. This is perfect for babies, kids, and anyone with sensitive skin. And, not only is this sunscreen gentle enough for a baby, but it’s gentle on the environment too — it’s biodegradable and reef safe. Ingredients: Zinc Oxide (19%), Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice*, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil*, Glycerin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Sorbitan Oleate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Water, Xanthan Gum *CERTIFIED ORGANIC. Learn more here.
- Green Beaver Natural Mineral Sunscreen Spray. Remember what I said about applying sunscreen on your slippery, squirmy octopus? Well, if you’ve got an extra wriggly kid, you can chase them around with this spray and maybe have more luck getting them covered! With an SPF 27, this sunscreen is fragrance-free and light, and great for days out at the park. This one is not water-resistant, however, so it’s not recommended for swimming. Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 24%, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dicaprylyl carbonate, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Silica, Jojoba Esters, d-alpha Tocopheryl acetate, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Seed Oil*. * Ingredients from Organic Farming. Learn more here.
- thinkbaby Safe Sunscreen. This has the highest SFP of 50+, and is water resistant to boot. It has a subtle smell, and doesn’t leave as thick a paste as other mineral sunscreens do. It’s a top-rated EWG sunscreen with a 1 and contains no harmful chemicals. Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20% (Non-nano), PURIFIED WATER (0), ALOE BARBADENSIS LEAF JUICE (0), CAPRIC CAPRYLIC TRIGLYCERIDES(0), SORBITAN STEARATE (COCONUT BASED) (1), PINE WOOD RESIN (0), VEGETABLE GLYCERIN (0), CETYL DIMETHICONE (0), HYDROGENATED CASTOR OIL (0), MAGNESIUM SULFATE (EPSOM SALT) (0), SUNFLOWER OIL, JOJOBA OIL (0), ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C) (0), TOCOPHEROLS (VITAMIN E) (1), OLIVE OIL (0), RASPBERRY SEED OIL (0), CRANBERRY SEED OIL (0), HYALURONIC ACID (MADE FROM VEGETABLE) (0), GLUCOSE & GLUCOSE OXIDASE AND LACTOPEROXIDASE (0), PAPAYA (0). Learn more here.
Of course, the best way to protect your baby or kid from the sun is to keep them covered up with SPF rated clothing and sun hats!
EWG is a non-profit group whose mission is “to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.” EWG rates daily products in terms of their health and safety. Sunscreens are an important product that EWG is dedicated to educating the public on. Learn more about sunscreens and their EWG ratings here.