Safe Sunscreen: Everything You Need To Know To Protect Yourself And Your Family
It’s time for fun in the sun, so 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 scrutinizing sunscreen labels and sorting through dozens of bottles at the drug store once 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 in the first place.
Why It’s Important To Wear Sunscreen
Summer means long, lazy days spent at the lake, relaxing beach trips with the family, and lounging by the pool while the kids play. Total bliss!
But adding all that sunbathing on top of daily, year-round sun exposure means UV rays can quickly take a toll on your skin in major ways. This includes 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 protective 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 great! 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
The sunscreen you put on you 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!).
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
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 (spoiler alert: 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.
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 (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.
These sunscreens are considered by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to be safer and more stable in sunlight.
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?
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!
Let’s take a quick look at which ingredients are safe for you and your family to use and which could use a little more research before you apply them to your skin.
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.
However, as we touched on earlier, oxybenzone is still found in many sunscreen products. While this ingredient is classified as safe by the FDA, there are concerns that it may be harmful to both the environment and your skin.
The fact that oxybenzone is found in plastic products is enough to put many people off this ingredient.
Since further research needs to be done to confirm the safety of oxybenzone, it may be best to avoid it altogether, particularly if you have sensitive skin.
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 as they’re naturally occurring minerals, straight from Mother Nature herself.
A common misconception about zinc is that will make you look completely white upon application. Not anymore!
Thanks to the concentration of this miracle mineral that we use, our sun protection products transition from white to clear when you apply them.
Natural Inactive Ingredients
While the active ingredients in sunscreens are the ones that do the heavy lifting (protecting your skin), many sunscreens have a long list of inactive ingredients you’ll also want to check out.
Inactive ingredients are the ones that make up the lotion of the sunscreen itself so that the active ingredients can be lathered onto your skin.
As with active ingredients, some inactive ingredients can also be chemically based. Look for inactive ingredients that come from nature, such as:
- Argan oil
- Shea butter
- Rosehip oil
- Good, old-fashioned water!
Sunscreen Ingredients Being Tested
While the FDA certifies whether or not a sunscreen product is safe for use, it won’t test the ingredients unless the manufacturer requests it.
Unfortunately, this means the jury’s still out for many other ingredients used in most sunscreens.
The FDA needs more safety information for cinoxate, dioxybenzone, ensulizole, homosalate, meradimate, octinoxate, octisalate, octocrylene, padimate O, sulisobenzone, 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
What 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 Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30. Our unique, clear formula is made with zinc oxide and is free of icky oxybenzone.
Packed with skin-soothing organic ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, sunflower seed oil, and coconut oil, our Zinc Sunscreen moisturizes as it protects.
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, as the ingredients used in each product can cancel one another out when combined. Yikes!
Instead, apply your chosen sunscreen first, then apply your insect repellent on top. Sunscreen should be reapplied often, while insect repellent generally only needs to be applied every 6 hours or so.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions upon application to ensure you receive adequate protection from both the sun and those pesky insects!
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.
While UVB rays are the ones that generally cause sunburn, UVA rays can still penetrate glass, meaning you’re not protected if you’re sitting inside (that includes while driving in the car!).
If you see “broad-spectrum” on the label of your sunscreen, that means it 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! Many of us don’t apply sunscreen liberally enough, leaving us vulnerable to the sun’s harsh rays.
If you’re new to mineral sunscreen, you may find it’s harder to apply than chemical sunscreen. So lather up, use plenty of it, and make sure you get those hard-to-reach or easy-to-forget areas, such as behind your ears, on your neck, and the tops of your hands and feet.
It’s also important to note that sunscreen can take up to 30 minutes to start working its magic. For this reason, it’s best to apply as soon as you know you’ll be heading out and then give your sunscreen some time to become effective.
We recommend waiting a minimum of 15 minutes after application before going outside.
5) Reapply Frequently
We alluded to this earlier, but it’s worth repeating.
Sunscreen needs to be reapplied at least every 80 minutes, particularly if you’re enjoying water-based activities or if you’re playing sports and sweating a lot.
Tip: towel-dry yourself before lathering on your sunscreen.
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.
6) Check The Expiration Date
Like all face and body care products, sunscreen does expire. Be sure to 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, err on the side of caution and trash it!
7) Opt For Baby-Specific Sunscreen For Your Littles
A baby’s skin is far more sensitive than our own, so it’s really important to avoid the sun if at all possible when it comes to your little one.
Using wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and opting for shady areas are all great ways to protect your baby from the sun. However, we know there are some times when this just isn’t feasible.
Most recommendations will tell you to avoid sunscreen altogether for little ones under six months. Talk to your pediatrician about the best sun protection for your baby if you’re unsure.
This fragrance-free sunscreen was specially designed for delicate baby skin to ensure your little one doesn’t experience irritation. We created it to be lightweight and fast-absorbing, so you won’t waste any time lathering up!
Made with hydrating ingredients including shea butter and cocoa butter, our Baby Sunscreen will keep your baby safe and protected while having fun in the sun!
Safe After Sun Care
If you’ve missed a spot or two when lathering up your safe sunscreen and happened to catch some sun, it’s important to know the best way to care for your sunburn and how to avoid irritating it further.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) suggests that increasing your water intake and taking cool baths or showers can assist in relieving the stinging sensations associated with sunburn.
Additionally, they recommend after-sun products that contain aloe vera to reduce inflammation and soothe the affected areas.
Our After Sun Soothing Hydrating Aloe Gel is packed full of natural, organic ingredients — including cooling aloe vera — to help promote healing.
Non-sticky and incredibly hydrating, our Aloe Gel also contains green tea, witch hazel, arnica, and eucalyptus oil to form a protective barrier on your skin. And it’s safe enough for the whole family, so even little ones can enjoy the soothing effects of this product!
It’s important to avoid harsh chemicals all year round, but it’s even more crucial while your skin is vulnerable and sensitive after being sunburned. While bathing, opt for body wash products that are all-natural and contain no nasty additives.
For extra sensitive skin, choose Babo Botanicals Moisturizing Baby Shampoo & Wash. Great for dry, itchy skin often associated with healing sunburn, this wash comforts dry, sensitive, or irritated skin. Hint: it’s not just for babies!
It’s also wise to give your skin a little extra protection while it’s healing. As well as avoiding the sun and wearing protective clothing when possible, use a hydrating cream such as our Miracle Moisturizing Cream to help the healing process.
This rich, intensive moisturizer contains soothing ingredients such as colloidal oatmeal and organic calendula to bring your sunburned skin back to life.
If you have blisters as a result of your sunburn, take extra care when bathing or applying body products, and be sure not to pop any of your blisters.
When To See Your Doctor
If you or a family member have had too much sun exposure, it’s important to know the signs to look out for that may indicate a trip to the doctor is needed.
If your pain doesn’t decrease with a cool shower, cold compress, or the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen, it’s best to seek medical attention for pain relief.
If severe symptoms such as nausea, a high fever, or chills are present, you may be experiencing heat stroke or sun poisoning. This condition should be treated by a doctor as soon as symptoms present.
The presence of blisters, swelling, or pus may indicate an infection. This should also be treated by a healthcare professional.
Armor Up With 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 above in mind, and stock up on safe sunscreen for healthy and effective sun protection.
With a mineral sunscreen like Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion, you and your family will be free to enjoy the great outdoors and whatever adventures lie ahead, knowing you’re well protected.
For gentle after-sun care, opt for a natural product such as our After Sun Soothing Hydrating Aloe Gel to protect and soothe your whole family’s skin.
Enjoy the sun safely with Babo Botanicals!