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Safe Sunscreen: Everything You Need To Know To Protect Yourself And Your Family

Posted on January 15 2020

Mom and kids at the beach

It’s time for fun in the sun, and you know the drill: lather up with sunscreen, grab your sunglasses and hat, and head out the door. Simple as that, right?

Kind of, but not quite. All sunscreens are not created equal, so choosing the right one is a big part of sun safety.

Before you get overwhelmed by the thought of reading sunscreen labels and sorting through dozens of bottles at the drug store before summer hits, let us help.

Here at Babo Botanicals, we want to make it easy by giving you the low-down on safe sunscreen and healthy sunscreen ingredients.

But to understand why it’s important to pick a safe sunscreen, we first need to talk about why it’s important to wear sunscreen.

Why It’s Important To Wear Sunscreen

Summer means lake days, beach trips with the family, and lounging by the pool while the kids play.

Add all that sunbathing to daily, year-round sun exposure, and UV rays can take a toll on your skin in major ways: sunburn, premature skin aging, and — the big one — skin cancer. The sun is no joke!

Even if you’re relentless about staying out of the midday sun and covering up with a hat and clothing while you're outside, sunscreen is still an essential part of your sun-protection routine.

Maybe you apply sunscreen every day and always make sure your kids are protected from the sun, too. That’s good! But are you paying attention to the type of sunscreen you use?

Why does it matter? We’re glad you asked.

Why Safe Sunscreen Matters

Man snorkeling in the ocean

The sunscreen you put on your and your kids’ bodies day in and day out doesn’t just evaporate into thin air. Where does that white, skin-protecting cream go?

It’s either absorbed into your body, washed off into the water you swim in, or both. That’s precisely why safe sunscreen matters. Because when sunscreen absorbs into your skin, it can directly impact your health.

And when sunscreen washes off into the ocean water you swim in, it affects the coral reefs, the fish, and other sea creatures (which, in turn, affects us if we eat them!).

Father and son at the beach with surfboards

For example, there is particular concern about oxybenzone, an ingredient commonly used in certain types of sunscreens.

When this ingredient gets absorbed into the human body, it can pass through the placental barrier and end up in a mother’s breast milk. It can also disrupt hormone levels for both men and women.

Plus, this chemical is just plain irritating for people with sensitive skin or skin conditions. Not to mention it bleaches the coral reefs.

As you can see, the ingredients in your sunscreen really do matter when it comes to the health and safety of you, your family, and the big, beautiful ocean we splash around in!

The goal is, of course, to use a sunscreen that’s effective (protecting your family from the damaging rays of the sun) and safe (so it won’t harm your body in the process).

So, let’s talk about what’s safe and what’s not, starting with the two different types of sunscreen.

Mineral Vs. Chemical Sunscreen Explained

Kids applying safe sunscreen on their dad

To understand sunscreen ingredients, you first need to know that there are two types of sunscreens: chemical and physical.

To keep things straight, know that chemical variations are sometimes called “organic sunscreen.” That’s because the chemicals used are carbon-based, not because chemical sunscreens are super-healthy or natural (hint: they’re not!).

Also, physical sun protection might be called “mineral sunscreen” or “mineral sunblock” since the active ingredients are minerals.

So, we have chemical (or organic) sunscreen and physical (or mineral) sunscreen. What’s the difference between the two? Their ingredients and the way they work.

Chemical Sunscreens

When you use a chemical sunscreen, the cream absorbs into your skin, working its chemical magic to soak up the rays so they don’t damage your skin.

Avobenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone are some of the active ingredients used in chemical sunscreens.

Physical Sunscreens

Physical sunscreens (or “sunblocks”) are just what they sound like. They sit on the surface of your skin, providing a physical barrier that protects (blocks) your skin from the sun.

The active ingredients in these physical sunblocks? Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both.

What Are Safe (And Unsafe) Sunscreen Ingredients?

Given that these two different types of sunscreens exist, how can you know which one is best and what ingredients to look for when it comes to safe sunscreen?

Reef friendly babo botanicals suncreen

In February 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed new sunscreen regulations.

Among other concerns, these regulations address which sunscreen ingredients are safe and which aren’t — and some that are yet to be determined safe or unsafe but are still in sunscreens that you’ll find on the shelves!

Unsafe Sunscreen Ingredients

Aminobenzoic Acid (PABA) And Trolamine Salicylate

Aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and trolamine salicylate are the two main active sunscreen ingredients that the FDA has classified as unsafe. The good news is that you likely won’t have to worry about these ingredients because they’re rarely used anymore.

Safe Sunscreen Ingredients

Zinc Oxide And Titanium Dioxide

The FDA said that zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are “proposed to be safe and effective for sunscreen use.” These two ingredients hang out on the surface of your skin, doing their job like a good little sunscreen should — without interfering with the rest of your body!

The bottom line? Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the best choices when it comes to active sunscreen ingredients.

Natural Inactive Ingredients

Some sunscreens have a long list of inactive ingredients you’ll also need to check. Look for inactive ingredients that come from nature, including:

  • Aloe
  • Argan oil
  • Shea butter
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Rose hips oil

Sunscreen Ingredients Being Tested

Unfortunately, the jury’s still out for 12 other ingredients used in most sunscreens.

The FDA needs more safety information for cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, oxybenzone, and avobenzone.

Tips For Choosing (And Using) A Safe Sunscreen

Armed with all that knowledge, you’re ready to walk confidently to the sunscreen aisle and make a good choice! Boiling it all down, here’s a list of tips for choosing and using a safe sunscreen.

1) Choose Mineral Sunscreen


Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30What the FDA and EWG have told us is that the ingredients used in physical sunblocks (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) are safe. That means mineral sunscreen is the way to go!

Choose a mineral sunscreen like Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30. Our unique, clear formula is made with zinc oxide and skin-soothing organic oils and is free of icky oxybenzone.

Safe for the reefs. Safe for your family.

2) Don’t Use Sunscreen/Insect-Repellent Combos

Steer clear of sunscreen/insect-repellent combination products. The FDA warns that they’re not considered safe or effective!

3) Choose “Broad-Spectrum” Sunscreen

What we’ve been trained to look for in sunscreen is a high sun protection factor (SPF). But SPF only protects against cancer-causing UVB rays, leaving you unprotected from UVA rays, which can also increase your risk for skin cancer.

If you see “broad-spectrum” on the label, though, that means the sunscreen will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays. That’s what you want.

Choose a sunscreen that’s broad-spectrum, has an SPF of 15 or higher, and is water and sweat resistant.

4) Apply Safe Sunscreen Liberally

Don’t skimp when it comes to sunscreen!

If you’re new to mineral sunscreen, you may find it’s harder to apply than chemical sunscreen. So use plenty of it and make sure you get those hard-to-reach or easy-to-forget areas.

5) Reapply Frequently

Especially if you’re in and out of the water, you’ll need to reapply your safe sunscreen at least every hour and a half or two hours.

Make sunscreen application easy and get the kids back to playing as soon as possible with a spray-on sunscreen, like our Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30. Just remember not to spray it directly on the face.

Babo Botanticals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 30

6) Check The Expiration Date

Sunscreen does expire. Check the expiration date on the sunscreen you’ve got hidden away in the closet and throw it out if it’s expired.

If you can’t find an expiration date and you think it may be older than three years, trash it!

7) Opt For Baby Sunscreen For Your Littles

baby at the beach with hat on

Most recommendations tell you to keep babies under six months old in the shade and avoid sunscreen altogether. Talk to your pediatrician about the best sun protection for your littlest ones!

When you do put sunscreen on them, make sure it’s a gentle, baby-friendly version, like Babo Botanicals’s SPF 50 Baby Sunscreen.

We know it can be difficult to apply sunscreen to a slippery baby , so our baby sunscreen comes in a lotion as well as a stick. Whatever works best for you!

Armor Up With Safe Sunscreen

girl relaxing in a canoe wearing safe sunscreen

The best sun protection includes a sunscreen that’s safe for all members of your family as well as the creatures in the sea!

Keep our tips in mind, and stock up on safe sunscreen for healthy and effective sun protection. With a mineral sunscreen like Babo Botanicals’s Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion, you and your family will be free to enjoy the great outdoors and whatever adventures lie ahead!

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