Sun Safety — The Scoop on Suncreen

Earlier this summer I shared this post with Sadie over at Brambles & Honey. Seeing that it doesn’t get super warm in Washington until August or September, I figured it wasn’t too late to share it here as well!
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Mama & Jemma | Summer 2011

Lately, I’ve been reading up on the ingredients in sunscreen. Not the fanciest topic to peruse, but definitely informative. And, as a mama, it’s one of those important things to consider when spending time in the summer sun.

Here’s the scoop …

Sun protection falls into two categories – screens and blocks. Screens absorb into the skin and deflect/reflect the sun’s harmful rays through a chemical reaction. Blocks in the form of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide do just that, block the sun. The majority of what you’ll find on the shelves are a mix of the two, giving you a sunscreen/sunblock combination.

But, how keen are you on having your skin, the body’s largest organ, absorb ingredients strong enough to ward off the sun? Here’s your list of key words to stay away from when it comes to sun protection. They’ll do more harm than good!

  • PABA
  • Benzophenone (benzophenone-3)
  • Homosalate 
  • Octy-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate)
  • Parabens (butyl-, ethyl-, methyl-, and propyl-)
  • Padimate-O and Parsol 1789 (2-ethylhexyl-4-dimethylaminobenzoic acid and avobenzone)

You can read more about why these are no-nos here.

My favorite sunscreens, especially for babies and children, are from ThinkBaby, Episencial, and Badger. All have a low toxin rating and offer protection without going overboard on chemicals. I’ll be staying away from anything Coppertone, Banana Boat, or in a spray can … they tend to rate high when it comes to harmful toxins and chemicals.

Of course, with any quality product you’re going to spend a little more. But shop around and I’m sure you’ll be able to catch some great summer sales. Happy shopping and have a safe, sunburn-free summer!

Additional resources:
Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep: Sunscreens 2012
Natural Sunscreen Choices
Sunscreen Exposed: 9 Surprising Truths
How to Make Non-Toxic Homemade Sunscreen

I’d love to hear about your favorite summer products, sunscreen or otherwise, so please share! And, I’m also curious about sun protection clothing/swimsuits … what do you know about those?
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  1. KN says

    Thanks for posting this. I found badger to be very sticky and paste like. It's hard to rub in and because of that, I was disappointed with it. I am wondering how the other two brands compare?

  2. says

    Thanks for this. I've mostly just been using clothing and hats to block the sun from my little guy, but I did have to cringe as I slathered sunscreen on him the other day to ward off the sun while we made a spur of the moment trip to the fountain last week on what seemed to be a one hundred degree day. I'll be sure to grab up one of those safer brands to have on hand for next time!

  3. says

    Such an important post! I chose to start making my own Sunscreen with my Organic Calendula lotion as the base! 15% minerals with an approx spf of 25-30. I have had numerous wonderful reports on how it has worked in even the hottest places! Plus I use it on myself and my daughter! Check out my website for more details! Also available in my Etsy shop too! and

  4. ThatMamaGretchen says

    I'm still on my first tube of screen this summer – we got Episcential to start with and I'm really liking it!

  5. says

    I posted yesterday on how I make my own sunscreen, and I dont know where the comment went?! Using my Organic Calendula as a base I add Titanium Dioxide & Zinc which provides an spf of 25-30. I have had good reports back on its effectiveness! I use it myself as well as on my 2yr old daughter! You can check it out here under New Items!

  6. ThatMamaGretchen says

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing :)