EWG Sunscreen Guide: What Does It Mean For Your Family's Safety?
A day of family fun in the sun doesn’t mean you throw safety out the window, even when your kids are making a break to get out the door! You know that sunscreen application is essential to sun safety, but the EWG Sunscreen Guide takes things a step further.
The EWG is on the hunt for sunscreen that’s both safe and effective. If you’re not familiar with the EWG (Environmental Working Group), Babo Botanicals is here to fill you in. After that, we’ll tell you what the EWG looks for in sunscreens and how Babo Botanicals sunscreens stack up.
Sun safety might be easier than you thought!
What Is The EWG?
The Environmental Working Group is a research- and education-driven non-profit that exists for the health of your family and the environment. In what way?
To fully appreciate the EWG, it’s important we understand how their work affects our daily lives.
For example, you know how tedious it can get to look at the ingredients for every product you use to ensure that it’s safe?
This is what makes the EWG so special. You don’t have to worry about all the endless information on the back of bottles anymore!
Sure, it’s still important to know what you’re putting on your skin. But they do all the hard work of figuring out whether or not the product is safe for us to use.
They collect and provide information about the ingredients and behind-the-scenes processes of the products you use every day. And their guidelines are strict! Not much gets past these guys.
Armed with information about the safety of ingredients and what standards are used for the factories and farms that produce products, you can make informed decisions about what your family uses.
The other great thing about the EWG is that you have all of that unbiased information right at your fingertips. For example, on EWG’s Skin Deep page, you can search for a cosmetic and see just how it ranks.
But for now, let’s focus on EWG sunscreen.
The FDA, EWG, And Sunscreen Safety
Sunscreen needs to be two things to keep your family protected from the sun’s harmful rays: it needs to be safe for your skin and body, and it needs to effectively block the sun.
There are lots of sunscreens that are effective in blocking the sun but not as many that are actually safe for your health. And why wouldn’t you want both? You do. That’s why you’re here!
For those of us who aren’t scientists and are just looking for a good time in the sun, it can be hard to determine what makes a safe sunscreen and what to stay away from.
That’s where the EWG Sunscreen Guide can be more beneficial than the FDA guidelines.
The FDA And Sunscreen Safety
Surely the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has something to do with the safety of products like sunscreen, right? Correct, but their guidelines aren’t very strict, and they allow ingredients that the EWG doesn’t approve of.
In February of 2019, the FDA proposed new sunscreen regulations, so they’re in the middle of testing questionable ingredients and revamping the standards. But as of now, they haven’t released the new official regulations.
What they have stated is that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are safe and that the jury is still out on all other active sunscreen ingredients. In the meantime, plenty of questionable ingredients are still in sunscreens on the shelves.
The EWG And Sunscreen Safety
The EWG website makes it easy for anyone to check sunscreen safety. They give a “hazard score,” which ranges from one to ten — with one being the safest and ten meaning “stay away!”
They also let you know how much data there is using the “data availability” score. This score tells you how much scientific research has been done on given products or ingredients.
The more research and the lower the hazards, the lower the number. Plus, the guide is color-coded, so that makes reading it super easy! It can be boiled down to this: green means go; red means stop.
How Does The EWG Rate Sunscreens?
We’ve established that the EWG gives ratings to help you know what’s safe and what’s not. But what are they analyzing to come up with those numbers?
They look closely at the safety of several common sunscreen ingredients that are, as of now, approved by the FDA and ask questions like:
- Will the chemical penetrate skin and reach living tissues?
- Will it disrupt the hormone system?
- Can it affect the reproductive and thyroid systems and, in the case of fetal or childhood exposure, permanently alter reproductive development or behavior?
- Can it cause a skin allergy?
- What happens if it is inhaled?
- Are there other toxicity concerns?
Not sure about you, but those seem like really important questions to us!
It would be impossible to go through all potential sunscreen ingredients and whether they’re more “rock on” or “run away.” So let’s take a look at just a few of the important players for a good EWG sunscreen rating.
1) No To Oxybenzone
Oxybenzone is an active ingredient (the ingredient that does the work of blocking the sun’s rays) common in chemical sunscreens. Unfortunately, it’s a chemical that simply doesn’t jive with the human body.
Oxybenzone soaks through skin easy-peasy. In fact, it’s commonly found in breastmilk, urine, blood, and amniotic fluid. Oxybenzone can also block or mimic hormones and is an irritating allergen.
2) Yes To Zinc Oxide And Titanium Dioxide
Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the two active ingredients used in most mineral sunscreens.
In addition to being the only two active sunscreen ingredients currently approved by the FDA, they are low-scoring (that means good!) ingredients according to the EWG. Why?
Mineral sunscreens get better scores than chemical sunscreens because it appears that zinc and titanium particles don’t readily, if at all, penetrate the skin (a.k.a. soak into your body through your skin).
Here at Babo Botanicals, we decided to go a step further by ensuring that we provide you with non-nano zinc oxide sunscreens.
Most mineral sunscreens will either have nano or non-nano zinc oxide particles in them. But non-nano is much safer. Here’s why.
Nano particles are super tiny (smaller than 100 nanometers) and non-nano particles (as the name suggests) are not.
The problem with nano particles is that they’re so small that when you apply them to your skin, there’s a chance they might penetrate your skin cells and enter your bloodstream.
While studies are still ongoing about the full dangers of nano zinc oxide in sunscreen, we decided to play it safe. So, you won’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals penetrating your skin cells with our sunscreens!
3) No To Irritating Inactive Ingredients
We’ve covered two of the active ingredients commonly used in sunscreen, but there are also lots of inactive ingredients that the EWG has something to say about.
One is a preservative called methylisothiazolinone. Europe has said no to this ingredient in leave-in cosmetic products, but it’s still being used in the United States. As you can guess, it doesn’t get a great EWG score.
Another inactive ingredient that doesn’t fare well with the EWG is fragrance. Often listed on the ingredient list simply as “fragrance,” this no-good smell-good rates poorly due to allergies, immunotoxicity, and irritation to skin, eyes, or lungs.
4) No To Vitamin A Additives
Vitamin A seems like a healthy thing, right? Not when it shows up in your sunscreen as retinyl palmitate.
The EWG gives this ingredient a poor rating, stating moderate concern for cancer and high concern for developmental or reproductive toxicity and biochemical or cellular level changes.
They discourage using sunscreens that contain vitamin A or retinyl palmitate, also called retinyl acetate, retinyl linoleate, and retinol.
5) Yes To More UVA Protection
We know that sunscreen helps to protect us from both UVA and UVB rays. But what are the differences between the two?
Northwestern Researchers highlighted in a Time magazine interview that the sun’s UVB rays have more to do with skin cancers and sunburns.
In addition, when we buy sun protection, the SPF number that’s indicated on the product is a measurement of how well that sunscreen can protect us against UVB rays.
UVA rays, on the other hand, are what we get exposed to on a daily basis. These rays are harmful because they penetrate the skin and too much UVA may lead to aging, skin darkening, and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Since UVA and UVB rays can be harmful, your sunscreen should have properties that protect you against both.
The problem is that, since the SPF value we see on products has more to do with the UVB than the UVA rays, you might not be getting enough UVA protection from some sunscreens.
To stay safe, always look for the words “broad spectrum” on your product. This means you’ll be protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
6) No To Assuming That Higher SPF Means More Protection
This one on our list can be confusing, right?
If you had two bottles of sunscreen — one with SPF 30 and the other with SPF 90 on the label, it’s easy to assume that the SPF 90 product would offer you the most protection against the sun’s harmful rays.
However, this isn’t the case.
The Skin Cancer Foundation explains that with SPF values, people tend to see a high number, assume that they have maximum protection, and then proceed to expose themselves to unnecessary damage in the process.
“In real life, products with very high SPFs often create a false sense of security. People who use them tend to stay out in the sun much longer. They may skip reapplying. And they may think they don’t need to seek shade, wear a hat, or cover up with clothing. They end up getting a lot more UV damage, which, of course, defeats the purpose.”
Regardless of the SPF measurement you see, it’s important to keep reapplying your sunscreen every couple of hours, and even more often if you’ll be spending the day swimming.
Babo Botanicals And EWG Sunscreen
If you’re looking for a safe sunscreen that gets great EWG scores, we can point you in the right direction. Here at Babo Botanicals, we’re not shy to say that we’re proud of the products we make!
Seven of our sunscreens made the EWG’s list of “Best Beach & Sport Sunscreens,” and our Baby Skin Mineral Sunscreen ranked in their list of the “Best Scoring Sunscreens For Kids.”
Plus, we have 16 other products that are EWG Verified (the best EWG score a product can get), including lip gloss, diaper cream.
We’ll walk you through two of our best sunscreens. Hopefully, you’ll become as much of a fan as we are!
Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion
One of the things we love about this sunscreen is that it goes on clear! Many mineral sunscreens leave you looking a few shades paler than normal once you apply them. Not ours.
Going beyond the way it looks, our Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion is made with zinc oxide, not oxybenzone (remember that icky chemical we mentioned earlier?). It’s also fragrance-free and hypo-allergenic, making it ideal for folks with sensitive skin.
How does it do with the EWG? We’re happy to say it has a bright green score of one!
Clear Zinc Sunscreen Stick
Made with our exclusive Nutri-Soothe™ blend rich in vitamins and antioxidants, this broad-spectrum UVA/UVB zinc sunscreen stick is great for the face, lips, nose, ears — really anywhere with extra sensitive skin!
It contains the power-packed protection of Zinc, plus rich, skin-soothing certified organic oils, including Jojoba. Plus, like our sunscreen lotion, it’s water- and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
The fragrance-free sunscreen stick goes on clear, is non-greasy, and rubs in well. This one is also green on the EWG rating scale with a score of one. What are you waiting for?
Additional Methods Of Effective Sun Protection
While it’s important to pay attention to the EWG sunscreen guidelines, there are a few other measures you can take to ensure that you and your family enjoy your time outside without putting your skin in harm’s way.
1) Avoid Going Out During Peak Hours
Generally, the sun will be its strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. These are the hours when you’re most at risk for getting sunburnt and exposing yourself to other harmful effects of the sun.
If you have to go outside during this time of the day, remember to always wear sunscreen and keep applying every couple of hours. Otherwise, it’s best and safest to stay indoors and only go outside either before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
If you’re used to going out at any time during the day, this might feel like a huge inconvenience. But trust us on this one — your future healthy skin will thank you!
2) Forget About Tanning
Many people love tanned skin. While we understand the aesthetic appeal behind it, we believe that it’s important to be upfront and real with you. Tanning simply isn’t healthy.
The FDA explains it perfectly by highlighting that “evidence suggests that tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer. And, contrary to popular belief, getting a tan will not protect your skin from sunburn or other skin damage.”
Unfortunately, opting for tanning beds instead of tanning in the sun, can also increase your risk of skin cancer.
3) Always Wear Protective Clothing
When it’s warm outside, wearing protective clothing isn’t just an option — it’s a must! So, what exactly are we talking about here?
Firstly, you can start by wearing sunglasses that will protect your eyes from the sun’s rays. Look for sunglasses with 99% to 100% UV absorption. While these might be a little costlier than others, they’re the best option to help protect your eyes.
Next, opt for a wide-brimmed hat. This will help to ensure that not only your face but also your ears and neck area are protected from the sun.
Lastly, choose clothing that gives you as much coverage as possible. This means opting for long-sleeved shirts and pants or long dresses or skirts.
Make sure that the fabrics you choose have moisture-wicking properties to give you the coverage you need while keeping you cool.
4) Avoid Direct Sunlight
Earlier, we mentioned that you need to avoid going outside during peak hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). But we understand that life happens and sometimes you just can’t avoid being outdoors during those hours.
If that’s the case, stay away from direct sunlight by opting for shady areas. Be careful if you are around sand or water. Unfortunately, these can reflect the harmful rays of the sun that you’re trying to avoid in the first place!
5) Give Your Lips Some Protection, Too
When most people think about sun protection, they usually consider their faces, arms, legs, and other body parts. But what about your lips?
Your lips need just as much protection as the rest of your body. So don’t forget about them!
You can use chapstick or lipstick with SPF, and just like with the rest of your body, don’t forget to keep reapplying every couple of hours for the best protection.
Babo Botanicals Lip Tint Conditioner SPF 15 Plum Rose can help you get the lip protection you need. It’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins while also being packed with shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado, and jojoba oil to leave your lips smooth and soft.
For a little more variety, you can also opt for the Pretty & Protective Lip Tint Trio SPF 15, which comes in Plum, Peach, and Crimson.
This lip protection is made with certified organic ingredients and packed with non-nano zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Your lips will be conditioned, smooth, and soft all day long!
Sunscreen for every member of the family is a crucial part of good sun safety. There’s really no reason not to wear sunscreen. Especially now that you know there are sunscreens that are both effective and safe!
You’ll rest easy knowing you’re keeping your family safe from the sun’s harmful rays as well as the not-so-great chemicals in traditional sunscreens. The best of both worlds. Now, get outside and have some fun!