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



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



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.






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!

Fragrance. The New ‘Second Hand Smoke’?

Growing up, I experienced my mother shunning all things fragranced.  There were no air fresheners, scented laundry products and most certainly no perfumed body products in our house.

Mom had asthma. She didn’t need anyone to tell her the correlation between fragrance and her difficulty breathing. Now, years later, I have read reports on the serious health concerns of fragrance and I know mom was onto something.

Synthetic fragrances are formulated by mixing cheap, unhealthy chemicals.  However, as fragrance is considered proprietary or a ‘trade secret’, manufacturers do not have to disclose what is in their formulation.  But it is well-documented now that these ‘secret’ chemicals are the cause of allergic effects such as asthma, headaches, wheezing, dermatitis AND some fragrance ingredients ie. phthalates are known hormone disruptors. Just take a look for yourself on-line to see reports such as Not So Sexy by Environmental Defence Canada for the whole scoop.

The issue is that people use these products everyday without hesitation. These nasty ingredients are in shampoos, creams and lotions, bath products, hand soaps, household cleaners, air fresheners, laundry products and even baby products! People trust the companies that make them to ensure they are safe.  However very few of the approximate 100,000  chemicals used in the Canadian marketplace have ever been tested to ensure safety.

What to do if you are not willing to take the risk of the ‘secret’ chemicals in your products. Number one: Become a label reader.  I am now one on behalf of my family and am happy for it. And I have found almost all conventional products are synthetically fragranced. Number two: Find products through trusted sources such as Environmental Defence Canada who make recommendations of safe cosmetics through their Just Beautiful campaign. Number three: Consider others in your choices.  You may not care what you put on your body or in the air but some may find exception to your affecting the air they breathe and the water they drink.

I recently heard someone say that the greatest chemical disaster of our time may not come from a major spill or catastrophe but from the chemicals we are putting on our bodies everyday.

Think about it.