What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Kids Sunscreens…

Summer On The Dock

I had no idea when I first became a parent of the variety of ingredients in kids sunscreens and how scary some of them could be.

And then one July day when my daughter was 2 she experienced a serious allergic reaction to a conventional sunscreen. Her wee body swelled terribly and turned beet red. Frightening.

Categorized by doctors as a ‘hyper allergic reaction’ it was something I never wanted to experience again.

And so the label-reading and researching began. The sunscreen that caused the reaction turned out to be a chemical stew. Try to find out what your child is allergic to when there are multiple potential culprit ingredients,  It included some likely suspects including oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, isobutane, synthetic fragrance and homosalate. Enough to make a new mom cringe and her baby’s skin crawl.

The bottom line is I wish I had known before I slathered my first born in sunscreen that it could be much worse in many ways than what I was trying to guard her against.

Now I choose ONLY mineral-based sunscreens. Not only did my daughter have a reaction to the chemical-based stuff but in all my research I found concerns of endocrine disruption, reproductive toxicity and cancer associated with commonly used synthetic sunscreens ingredients. Horrific for any parent to think of.

Only zinc oxide or titanium dioxide cut the mustard now. These minerals create a physical barrier and are not relying on chemical UV absorbers to do the work. As a bonus they do not sting eyes as do the chemical sunscreens and you don’t have to wait any length of time before going in the sun. Once applied, you are good to go.

Although there are MANY fabulous, SAFE sunscreen brands as per the Environmental Working Group, I do have my favourites that have served my extremely sensitive, allergic daughter well over the past few years:

Dr Robin For Kids SPF 30

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Best For: Super-sensitive-skinned, allergy or eczema-prone kids. No synthetics, no nut or seed ingredients, no fragrance or gluten. Bonus: It’s formulated by a pediatric dermatologist.

 

 

Thinkbaby SPF 50 / Thinksport kids SPF 50

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Best For: Sensitive and allergy-prone kids who like a little bit of scent. Still safe but yummy, all-natural scent.  My allergy-prone daughter is crazy for this stuff now.

 

 

COOLA Baby SPF 50

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Best For: Babies and very fair-skinned wee ones. Best to stay out of the sun of course but if you must, this super-safe, unscented formula offers a great physical barrier.

 

Good news is that there are lots of great sunscreens.  Do you homework here and make sure to choose something super-safe. You will find different brands carried in different areas so best to do your own research on a brand you might be interested in so you feel rest-assured. Happy and safe sun-screening!

Is Your Child Suffering From This Not-So-Well-Known Allergy?

Most of us are well-aware that tree nuts, dairy, soy, corn, seafood and other foods can cause serious issues to those allergic to them.  However it is not so well-known that harsh, synthetic chemicals can also cause serious allergic reactions especially in children.

I found out the hard way a few years ago, when I slathered my then 2 year old’s body in a big brand chemical-based sunscreen thinking I was protecting her. The result was frightening. Her wee body swelled and turned red from head to toe. Luckily in our case no swelling of the throat occurred. The medical doctors attending to her described the situation as a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.

However, as many parents of allergic children know, you NEVER let your guard down. You arm yourself the best way you know how and are always on guard. With allergies you can’t assume what the ‘next time’ could bring.  I now live life avoiding chemicals in my daughter’s products that could be suspect in fear of a similar or worse episode.

I was happy this week when CBCHealth raised awareness of chemical allergies. Their article documented the case of an otherwise healthy 8 year old girl who had an allergic reaction to a synthetic chemical in a children’s product. The girl was having her mouth wiped constantly with baby wipes containing methylisothiazolinone (aka MI or MIT). The picture of the young girl causes me upset. Unfortunately her parents had no idea what was in the wipes and the issue synthetic chemicals can cause.

MI is a very commonly used preservative that has been on my personal ‘hotlist’ since my daughter’s episode (it was one of the chems making up the chemical stew that was her sunscreen that day).  You will find this chemical on Health Canada’s Hotlist of cosmetic chemicals…a list of the nastiest chems known to be used in cosmetics in Canada. And if you research MI, you will also find medical studies linking it to neurotoxicity. All good reason for any parent to avoid methylisothiazolinone in their family’s products.

Also according to the CBC article the girl’s allergy was initially mis-diagnosed as impetigo or eczema and she was prescribed steroid creams and antibiotics.  As the baby wipes were still being used, the prescription drugs did nothing to clear up her skin. Makes me wonder how many other kids may have been similarly mis-diagnosed? And how many parents are not aware of the potential issues caused to children from commonly-used synthetic chemicals? How many parents think their child’s eczema-like symptoms may be an inherent skin condition as this girl’s family did?

Once I my guard down. My husband took my daughter to a classmate’s birthday party when she was in kindergarten.  It was being held in the family’s backyard. Being mid-June, the mom hosting the party opted to slather the child-guests upon arrival in big-brand sunscreen (full of the same chemicals that caused our family grief a few years before).  I never considered someone else would put product on my child’s body. As my husband ran to the car to retrieve our zinc-based sunscreen, the hostess was insisting not to bother as she had enough for all. In my perfect world all parents would be aware that products other than food can cause serious allergic reaction.

I understand navigating chemicals is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Fortunately, I have the advantage of having studied environmental chemistry at university. Since my daughter’s allergic reaction I have delved deeper into researching everyday household chemicals, all health issues they are linked to as well as alternative products which do not contain controversial chemicals. And I now love to talk chemicals to interested parents in hopes of helping out. So feel free to ask!

5 Best Family-Friendly ‘After Sun’ Products

Now that summer is finally here and is accompanied by sun drenched days (Yippee!), I amMuskoka chair reminded of the need for after-sun products. My own experience has proved that some of these can be very hard on sensitive skin and that in many cases, conventional after-sun products don’t cut it.

I found out the hard way that conventional ‘after-sun’ was not going to work for us. One day, when I applied one to my young daughter’s skin, she screamed AND cried, ‘Get it off. It’s hurting me’!!

I had assumed the product was safe for her uber-sensitive skin as it was from a ‘natural’ products company.  Apparently, not so.  I checked the label after the screaming subsided, to find after aloe, were listed a few synthetic chemicals.  Clearly not suitable for sensitive-skinned kids. I then researched to find truly soothing products that would not cause us upset when applied.

As I hear so often that many parents identify with my need for only the most gentle of products, I am sharing my new fave, better-than-conventional skin soothers:

Dr. Robin For Kids Daily Moisture

  • Size/Price: 6 oz/177mL $16.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Safflower Seed Oil, Coconut Oil
  • Why We Love It: Dr. Robin is a pediatric dermatologist and developed her line of products for sensitive or eczema-prone kids.  She is also a mom of three wee kids. And Dr. Robin’s Daily Moisture works well on winter-weary skin too so if you have some left over at the end of the summer…lucky you!
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Body Lotion Bars

  • Size/Price: 2.75 oz./78g $22.00
  • Main Ingredients: Shea Butter, Beeswax, Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Vitamin E
  • Why We Love It: Easy to apply. It is a bar of soothing, hydrating ingredients that you simply pick up like a puck and rub on skin. Older kids can apply themselves.  And we found it difficult to waste product.
  • Buy Here or Here

COOLA Radical Recovery After Sun Lotion

  • Size/Price: 6oz/180 mL $36.00
  • Main Ingredients: Sunflower Seed Oil, Aloe Vera Juice and delicious-smelling flower and citrus oils AND many ingredients are organic.
  • Why We Love It: Works so well AND smells so good! It comes in a tube large enough to do for the whole family for the entire summer season.
  • Buy Here or Here

Ella’s Botanicals Magic Balm

  • Size/Price: 62g/2oz $15.00
  • Main Ingredients: Olive Oil, Shea Butter, Beeswax and delicious-smelling oils of lavendar or tangerine depending which scent suits your fancy….Ella makes two Magic Balms. She says Lavendar is her best-seller but we are partial to Clementine.
  • Why We Love It: Soothes skin sooo well and we love that Ella is a person not just a brand name and a mom herself. Ella is a hometown favourite where I live for moms looking for all natural products for their kids.
  • Buy Here or Here

Consonant Unscented Hydrating Body Lotion

  • Size/Price: 8.5 oz/ 250 mL $22.00 OR 17 oz/ 500mL $42.00
  • Main Ingredients: Organic Aloe, soothing Sunflower Seed Oil and hydrating Coconut Oil.
  • Why We Love It: We love most products by this award-winning Canadian cosmetic company and this product is no exception. Unit for unit Consonant gives great value especially as many of its ingredients are certified organic.  We love that the larger format with a pump makes easy to use on squirming kids.  In fact we find it great for the whole family!
  • Buy Here or Here

I know there are lots of fabulous products I haven’t discovered yet. If you have a favourite , please feel free to share as I would love to hear! I do tend to favour local products as well as products that are standouts in their category no matter where they hail from.

Here’s to Happy Summer Skin!

K-I-S-S Sunscreens

KISS is an acronym for ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’. It was originally developed by the US Navy in the 1960 so to avoid unnecessary complexity in hope of increased success of any given system. Basically the ‘Less is More’ priniciple.

This methodology makes great sense to me when trying to explain the complex world of sunscreens and their chemicals. I am asked almost daily by people about what to avoid in sunscreens? And why? And what best is to use? And for kids?

Here goes:  What to Avoid In Sunscreens K-I-S-S Style…

OXYBENZONE.  Take note of that word and know that experts are now linking its use to endocrine disruption, photoallergic reactions, persistence and bioaccumulation.  This means not only can it pollute YOU but once in the environment it doesn’t break down potentially wreaking havoc on marine life. No two ways around it but to AVOID IT.

The Environmental Working Group notes these sunscreens use oxybenzone:

  • LaRoche-Posay Anthelios 60 Face UltraLight Sunscreen SPF 60
  • Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion Sunscreen SPF 30
  • Aveeno Active Naturals protect + Hydrate Lotion Broad Spectrum SPF 30

RETINYL PALMITATE. This skin-conditoning agent has been found by the FDA to produce free-radicals that can damage DNA and cause gene mutations when exposed to UV light. So why is it used in sunscreens and especially those for kids???  Well clearly Canadian authorities are onto it as in the last few days it has been reported that Health Canada is looking at putting warning labels on sunscreens that contain retinyl palmitate. Bottom line: avoid, avoid, avoid the brands that still use it in sunscreens.

And EWG reports these sunscreens use retinyl palmitate:

  • Banana Boat Baby Tear Free Sunblock Lotion, SPF 50
  • Arbonne Baby Care Sunscreen, SPF 30
  • Almay Line Smoothing Liquid Makeup for Dry Skin SPF 15

SPRAY SUNSCREENS. Not only do they pose an inhalation hazard BUT the propellant used is often a form of butane, a fuel used in cigarette lighters.  Remember last summer, people caught fire after using Banana Boat Spray Sunscreen? If you find yourself saying, ‘but it is so easy to spray vs. rub’…give your head a shake…really is the risk worth it?

What To Use: Zinc and titanium dioxide or a mix of are the two mineral-based sunscreen ingredients that Health Canada recognizes as ‘natural products’ when it comes to sunscreens.  The only issue with zinc or titanium is if they are ground too find such that the particles can go into the skin.  Look for ‘No Nanotechnology‘ or ‘No Nanoparticles‘.

Caveat: ALWAYS READ LABELS.  It’s a good habit to get into.  When in doubt research your ingredients on-line. And don’t assume a brand or product name with a natural or healthy-sounding name is better for you.  Read and research always!

Happy and safe sunning everyone!

The Warrior Mom circa 2013

I gave birth to two fabulous, healthy little girls in the last 8 years and found out the hard way that common everyday household products contain harsh, synthetic ingredients that in many cases, are not tested for safety. So for my family’s sake I have decided that I MUST be a catalyst for change.

I now question everything and I research to make more informed decisions.  And in the hope I might help someone else to avoid the experiences I have had, I blog. Most recently I joined the blogging team at Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. I am so impressed with the fabulous work Safer Chemicals is doing, I am beyond thrilled to be a part!

My personal interest in toxic chemicals started with daughter’s severe reaction to synthetic sunscreen.  It was Canada Day 2007. Her tiny body swelled and became beet red after I applied harsh toxic chemicals to her body called ‘children’s sunscreen‘.  She was two.

People stared at our usually beautiful daughter that day in the medical waiting room. She was distorted and looked rather frightful. Medical authorities said simply it was a ‘hyper-allergic reaction’.  Any parent who has been through this, no matter what the exact cause or exact result, will tell you it is a life-changing experience.

I reacted by becaming a warrior mom. I set out to figure out what had happened and why and how it could be avoided in future? I found out that petroleum-based chemicals I had studied in University that were polluting waterways and affecting marine life were in my kids products!! And many are not tested for safety.  Scientists are now studying the health costs of using these cheap, industrial commonly-used chemicals.  The results are alarming… many common household chemicals are suspected carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Shame on the huge corporations that continue to manufacture products for kids peppered with such toxic garbage.

Even if you have never considered toxins may be in your kids products, take a minute to read your own product labels. Make google your best friend and research, research, research. This will help you to be armed to make informed decisions. If your child hasn’t had an outward reaction as mine did you are fortunate. Trust me when I say that your research will confirm lots of nasty chems commonly used in everyday household products. Best to know these can be silently harming your children.

Who is surprised that moms are leading the way in demanding change?  I have since found that I am one small voice in a group of many moms trying to educate other moms and to ultimately make huge corporations change their ways for the sake of ALL of our children. Some note-worthy moms are moving mountains to speak up against environmental causes of childhood illnesses that plague us in 2013.  From autismfood sensitivities, life threatening allergies to pediatric cancers.The stats on increasing incidence of all of these is major cause for concern.

If you have ever wondered how successful moms are at affecting change, know that there have been some fabulous success stories of moms causing BIG BUSINESS to make healthful change. Such outstanding work! Keep on going sisters there is loads of work to still to be done!

If you know a mom or a mom to be, who may not know this info, please pass this post on to her.  Post something about this subject on your Facebook page or tweet about it. And if you feel so inclined, start a petition, sign a petition, or speak to other moms about this subject. AND speak with your wallet. Stop buying and they will stop making. If we don’t speak up, industry will most likely never choose to change.

Some of my favourite resources and some of the major catalysts for change on both sides of the 49th parallel are Environmental Defence Canada, Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, Women’s Voices for the Earth,  and one of my all-time fave fellow warrior moms, Lori at Groovy Green Livin….I am inspired and impressed with all these people’s efforts everyday on behalf of children and families everywhere. All are worth a ‘follow’.

Feel free to share any personal comments or stories with me.  I would love to hear from you!

Another Good Reason Not to Use Banana Boat Sunscreens

Health Canada has recalled Banana Boat sunscreens from the market as  some people have caught on fire as a result of using them. This news is truly horrible. The company that manufactures the brand claims the nozzle allows too much spray which takes longer than it should to dry on the skin.  Bottom line if you go near an open flame with the undried Banana Boat on your skin, you could go up in flames.  Sadly, this happened to a few unfortunate people in the US and in Canada.

If you are counting yourself lucky because you were not one of the unfortunate few who suffered, think again if you use Banana Boat.  Take a quick look at all Banana Boat skus on the Skin Deep database to find out not only do their sunscreens contain flammable isobutane (used as a propellant in this case), but there are a host of potential health-affecting issues regarding these the products. So basically all who use these products lose.

Most Banana Boat skus contain ozybenzone which is linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive toxicity. Other chems you get in these products like it or not, are PEG chemicals, BHT, Methylchloroisoisothiazolinone, Retinyl Acetate and fragrance of undeclared origin. All of which you will find on numerous toxic chemical lists in Canada and in the US.

Best thing we can learn from this recall is to assess our own personal threshold for accepting risk.  Do the risks outweigh any benefit of use?

A case in point from my own experience. A few years ago there was a recall of cold cuts from a Canadian meat processing plant.  At the time, I was buying cold cuts as my kids like them and they are EASY. We probably all slip into the ‘its easy but I know its not good for me’ conundrum. I am guilty for sure.  After the recall, I figured  that cold cuts are not really good for us anyway so why assume all the risk associated with their use? They contain excess sodium and nitrates in most cases. Along with the potential for the risk of food-bourne illness, who needs it?  I think the same about the Banana Boat sunscreens, There is much too much risk involved in using them. Toxic AND they’re flammable. They even have toxins and flammable isobutane in their sunscreen for babies.

Just know there are always alternatives. For natural sunscreen newbies, look for natural claims on labels and then back it up by confirming that the sun block comes from zinc or titanium dioxide not toxic sunscreen chemicals such as oxybenzone.  There are lots of good alternatives, you just have to look.  If ever in doubt, check the Skin Deep database and become an avid label reader.  It’s the only way to go as nobody else is going to be the guardian angel of your family’s health.