Most of us have been in the habit of generously applying sunscreen to our kids every day during the summer. We’ve been flooded with the message that we have to constantly protect our children from the harmful rays of the sun. Yes, it’s true we need to protect them from sunburn, but let’s make sure we’re not harming them in the process.
First, we need to make sure they get enough sunshine so their skin can make an adequate amount of vitamin D. Sunscreen blocks vitamin D production. It’s more about managing healthy levels of sun, rather than eliminating sun exposure entirely.
And second, sunscreen can be very toxic and certainly not something you want to rub into your child’s body every day if not necessary. Some sunscreens can actually contribute to cancer due to their mutagenic properties and their ability to generate free radicals when activated by ultraviolet light from the sun. It’s also disturbing to find that sunscreen chemicals have hormone disrupters, which means they may interfere with normal sexual development or cause reproductive problems later in life. Sunscreen chemicals can also cause skin irritation and rashes.
Here are some of the sunscreen ingredients to avoid since they are suspected or known carcinogens and/or hormone disrupters:
benzophenone, avobenzone, oxybenzone, diethanolamine, triethanolamine (DEA, TEA), padimate-o, octyl dimethyl, PABA, homosalate, retinyl palmitate, octyl-methoxycinnamate (octinoxate), salicylates, and parabens.
Studies show that some of the chemicals in sunscreens are absorbed into the bloodstream in significant amounts. The longer sunscreen chemicals are left on the skin, the greater the absorption into the body. One study notes “it would be prudent not to apply oxybenzone to large surface areas of skin for extended and repeated periods of time, unless no alternative protection is available. There may be an additional concern for young children who have less well-developed processes of elimination, and have a larger surface area per body weight than adults.”
Physical barrier-type sunscreens such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are assumed to be safer products. However, research now shows that though titanium dioxide sunscreens are safer than products containing chemicals such as benzophenone, they are not something we should be putting on our children’s bodies on a regular basis. Titanium dioxide has the ability to cause DNA damage in human cells and there is concern that it may be carcinogenic.
Warning: Don’t Use Spray Sunscreens!
Spray sunscreens use petrochemical active ingredients in combination with denatured alcohol, which is highly flammable. Denatured alcohol is also highly toxic since it contains the neurotoxin methanol. In addition to being exposed through their skin, kids can inhale the fumes from these sunscreens. The FDA is considering banning them.
Recently, a man in Massachusetts received second degree burns over most of his body after he sprayed himself with a spray sunscreen and then went over to his lit barbecue grill. The sunscreen fumes had evaporated from his skin and set him on fire.
Zinc Oxide is the Best Sunblock for Kids
Zinc oxide is a mineral that provides complete UVB/UVA protection, has anti-inflammatory properties, and is considered a safe sunscreen ingredient. Zinc oxide is the only FDA approved sunscreen for use on children under 6 months of age.
However, the regular form of zinc oxide leaves a strong white residue on the skin. To create a clear skin product rather than one that leaves a white residue, zinc oxide is now made in the form of nano-size particles. There is growing concern about the toxicity of nanoparticles, and this concern has initiated a world-wide effort to study the skin absorption and phototoxicity of nanoparticles of preparations used in sunscreens and cosmetics. Recent research shows that nanoparticles can cross the human placenta, possibly exposing the developing fetus to the tiny materials. At this time, the safety of nanoparticles has not been proven, so caution is prudent, especially when pregnant or using these products on children.
Recommended Natural Organic Sunscreen
I’m happy to say I finally found a great zinc oxide sunscreen that is micronized with a larger particle size and contains no nanoparticles. It is made by Kabana Skin Care and the ingredients are excellent. Kabana’s chemical-free, natural organic sunscreen formulas are created by Erik Kreider MS MBA, a pharmaceutical scientist who became dissatisfied with companies that mislead their customers and ‘market’ natural but don’t ‘sell’ natural ingredients in their mass-marketed skin care products.
In order for an ingredient to be deemed natural by Kabana’s rigorous standards it must either be directly derived from a living organism via a sustainable process and free of petrochemicals, or is a mineral that has a proven safety record for use on and in the human body. Kabana’s ingredients are of the highest quality, chosen specifically to ensure good health and environmental sustainability.
Mineral sunscreens are either micronized or nano. Anything larger than micronized becomes the size of fine sand which is useless in a sunscreen preparation and impossible to evenly apply. Many sunscreen manufacturers will say instead they use micronized, but micronized also includes nanoparticles, so it’s difficult to tell what exactly they mean unless they are very specific in the description.
Kabana products are in the micron range and are non-nano. Kabana uses neither nanoparticle (size) zinc oxide, nor micronized (manufacturing process) zinc oxide. Instead Kabana uses micron-sized particles, created by a clean gas phase process that involves no grinding and maintains a tight particle size distribution in the micron range, average size 0.260 +/- standard deviation of 0.012 microns, which is 20x larger than most nanoparticle sunscreens. This particle size range has been used in products for decades and is considered safe.
We use Kabana’s Green Screen® Organic SPF 22 – Skin Tone Tinted Sunscreen. It feels great on my skin, is non-greasy, and doesn’t make me look white. Kabana has a whole line of other natural products, including moisturizers, shower gel, diaper rash cream, lip balm, and gift sets.
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