The Best Mineral Sunscreen For Kids & Babies 2021
Whether you’re spending a day at the beach with your kids or have an outing at the playground, protect your babies and kids from harmful UV rays with mineral sunscreen. We’ve picked the best mineral sunscreen of 2021 that’s reef safe and doesn’t contain ingredients that can cause health issues. From lotion to stick to spray, we’ve rounded up the best non-toxic, clean and natural mineral sunscreen lotion for babies, kids and teens.
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As a former preschool teacher, applying sunscreen to a bunch of wiggly kids was no easy task. But, being outdoors in a high altitude ski resort town meant there would be sunburns if no sunscreen was applied. Mineral sunscreen has come a long way since then – it used to be super thick, impossible to rub in, and looked like white paint on the skin. In 2021, mineral sunscreen is so much easier to rub in and, depending on the brand, goes on clear or deposits an almost imperceptible white layer.
As someone who’s at high risk of skin cancer, I take sunscreen and sunscreen application very seriously, for myself and for my children. If you only apply sunscreen once in the morning, you risk burning your skin and exposing it to dangerous UV rays. No matter how good your sunscreen is, you have to reapply it every 2 hours. Apply at least a shot glass full every time you apply/reapply. I also recommend avoiding direct sunlight during peak hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.). A few other helpful tips: wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and UV protective clothing, as well as seeking shade.
If you’re looking for mineral sunscreen for your kids or babies, I’ve rounded up the best mineral sunscreen lotion for kids and babies, as well as mineral sunscreen sticks and mineral sunscreen sprays.
IS CHEMICAL SUNSCREEN SAFE?
Chemical Sunscreens are absorbed into your skin. They work by converting UV rays into heat and dissipating the heat from your skin. Since chemical sunscreen is absorbed through the skin, it can gain entry into your bloodstream. In a 2020 study on chemical sunscreen ingredients, plasma concentration levels of the active sunscreen ingredients avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate, and octinoxate were measured in study participants after sunscreen application. The levels of all 6 active sunscreen ingredients exceeded the threshold established by the FDA. Not only were these chemicals present right after application, they remained in the body for extended periods of time (1).
Currently, the FDA recommends further study on the safety and efficacy of the 12 following SPF ingredients: cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, and avobenzone. Under proposed FDA guidelines, the active ingredients aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate would not be considered safe to use.
The active sunscreen ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate and homosalate are established endocrine disruptors (2, 3). Endocrine disruptors have adverse effects on hormone function and human reproduction (4, 5).
Some ingredients in sunscreen can have deleterious effects on our aquatic ecosystem. In 2018, Hawaii passed legislation that restricts the use of personal care products containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, based on an association between the banned ingredients and damage to coral reefs.
WHAT’S THE BEST ACTIVE INGREDIENT FOR SUNSCREEN?
Physical sunscreen sits on the top layer of your skin, and both absorbs and scatters UV radiation (6). Zinc oxide is one of the most effective sun protectors available, blocking out both short and long wave UVA rays and all UVB rays. Microfine zinc oxide is also photostable and does not degrade when exposed to sunlight (7). Some sunscreen companies use a combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (both minerals). I have an in-depth guide on sunscreen explaining the definition of SPF, active and inactive ingredients to look for in sunscreen, how mineral (physical) sunscreen works, wavelength protection from some popular sunscreen active ingredients, and more.
At this time, the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration of the USA) recognizes Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide as the only safe and effective active ingredients in sunscreen. If you’re concerned about zinc oxide or titanium dioxide entering your bloodstream, scientific studies have demonstrated that these particles do not penetrate beyond the top layer of skin (8, 9).
As a general rule of thumb, physical sunscreen is gentler on the skin than chemical sunscreen, making it a good choice for sensitive skin. It’s also less likely to clog your pores than chemical sunscreen. The National Eczema Association recommends physical sunscreen for people with eczema.
INACTIVE INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
- Fragrance (parfum)– Personal care products can list fragrance as one ingredient and don’t have to disclose the fact that these formulations may contain hundreds of ingredients. Synthetic Fragrance may contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, allergens, respiratory irritants and neurotoxic chemicals (10).
- Parabens– Based on a study conducted at the University of California Berkeley, researchers found that parabens were able to stimulate breast cancer cell growth, even at concentrations 100 times lower than the natural growth factor heregulin. These findings suggest that paraben exposure doesn’t have to be high to lead to cancer growth (11).
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)– Polyethylene glycol is used to make lotion thicker and better able to transport moisture to the skin. The manufacturing process can introduce impurities and by-products, such as ethylene oxides and 1,4-dioxane, which are known carcinogenic materials (12).
- Phenoxyethanol– Phenoxyethanol is a preservative that both The European Union and Japan restrict above 1% concentration in skincare products. The EU considers phenoxyethanol toxic on the lips and around the mouth. In addition, the French ANSM restricted use of phenoxyethanol as a preservative in products that are applied to the diaper area of babies and kids under 3 years of age (13). With the large amount of sunscreen that needs to be applied and reapplied to children and babies every 2 hours, I would err on the side of caution and choose a sunscreen that does not contain phenoxyethanol.