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!

Toxic Trinket or Toy?

My 4 year old was at a classmates party recently and received the cutest little bauble as a giveaway. A brightly coloured ball on a keychain. Cute, cute, cute. But reading the ingredients inside the fancy pink ball made this mom squirm.

The product called Twist and Pout is a lip balm with SPF.  The package itself listed the active ingredients which did include 7.5% octinoxate and 4.5% oxybenzone. Both are commonly used synthetic sunscreen ingredients with oxybenzone being THE most controversial sunscreen chemical of the bunch. With health concerns that include endocrine disruption, oxybenzone certainly deserves a controversial billing.

I continued to check on-line for the remainder of the ingredients.  The company’s website sadly, did not list the ingredients.  After searching other websites that sell the product, I found the rest of the ingredients.

The fancy pink ball also contained retinyl palmitate. I had read recently that Health Canada is looking to put a warning on sunscreen products containing retinyl palmitate. It is suspected that retinol or its derivative retinyl palmitate breaks down in sunlight potentially causing cellular level damage. Yikes! The ingredients were beginning to sound more and more dastardly and far from being a suitable child’s toy.

I read lots of reviews of the Twist and Pout product on line.  Many blogs touted its natural ingredients and one even made mention of the products all ‘organic’ ingredients.  Huh?? Nary a mention of the unsavoury very synthetic ingredients. People seemed to love the feel of the product on their lips and of course the packaging was a huge hit.  The do-gooder manufacturer even offers 5% of sales of ‘Pink Ribbon’ balls to Breast Cancer-based work. Are people choosing this product without focusing on what toxins are lurking inside?

It made me realize how ever-important it is to research your own products and ensure you are comfortable with the ingredients.  In this case, I definitely say ‘toxic trinket’ not suitable as a giveaway for wee kids.

The manufacturer of Twist and Pout has loads of opportunity to improve on their cute product. Take out the synthetics (including the fragrance of unknown origin) and more people ( including me) may be touting it’s complete and utter fabulousness.

Recently at my eldest daughter’s birthday party, I chose to giveaway Keeki Pure & Simple products and Clinical Luxury’s LipStuff. The kids loved them AND both lines contain only the most natural ingredients with not one suspected toxin. To me these nicely fit the bill for young girls who wanted to look and feel fancy without their parents having to worry about any associated risks.

***  I have never received compensation of ANY sort from any company whose product I gush about.  I like to think of myself as a cheerleader for companies making a difference by offering ALL NATURAL, safe products and simply love to write about them.

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!

7 Nasty Chems to Avoid in Baby Products

 

iStock_baby in bathBaby bath and body products often contain unsavoury synthetic chemicals just as adult products do.  I am often asked by moms wanting to avoid chemicals with a bad rap, what to avoid in their kids products?

First off, I don’t subscribe to the’ If its allowed to be used, what could possibly be wrong with it?’ line of thought. My personal rule of thumb is if there is even a suspected health issue I will not use it on my kids. I grew up in an era when my parents said over and over again about smoking, ‘We didn’t know’…Science can take decades to conclude ill health effects of products and take action so why wait?

Here are current chemical concerns in common baby and kid products that I choose to avoid:

1) Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservativess such as Quat-15, Diazolidinyl Urea, Imidazolidinyl Urea, DMDM Hydantoin

I found Quat-15, in the shampoo my kids were bathed in by hospital staff when they were hours old. I have really never got over the fact that both my babies had a ‘christening’ of controversial chemicals, only hours out of the womb. 

2) Parabens are one of the most widely used preservatives in body care products. Parabens have been linked to ill heath effects, most notably with breast cancer. Some baby products are ripe with this stuff. So make sure you are aware of brands that still see fit to use such unsavoury ingredients in baby products.

3) PEGs (polyethylene glycols) widely used as thickeners, solvents and softeners. There are a number of types of PEG’s used in baby and kid products.  The issue science has found with PEGs is that they are often contaminated with toxic compounds such as ethylene oxide and 1.4 dioxane both possible human carcinogens.  So best to be safe and not use any products containing these compounds

4) Sodium Laureth Sulfate is basically an inexpensive detergent which makes bath/shampoo products bubble and foam up. David Suzuki and others tell us it is ALSO often contaminated with ethylene oxide and 1,4 dioxane, again both suspected as human carcinogens. So as Sodium Laureth Sulfate is neither gentle on skin nor a safe option, better to avoid it. Check out baby shampoos currently using this.

5) Oxybenzone a very common sunscreen chemical.  Basically THE reason I gave up those conventional sunscreens when I had babies. Oxybenzone is linked to developmental, AND reproductive toxicity, and as if that’s not enough, also linked to endocrine disruption. So why do some products geared toward children still use it in baby sunscreens? And perhaps the most serious situation is by companies that claim to have at least one foot in the camp of natural or ‘better than’ products that use oxybenzone in baby sunscreens…. causing serious confusion in the marketplace.

6) BHT and BHA are closely related compounds which act as preservatives in moisturizers. These are also used as food preservatives most notably where kids are concerned in their breakfast cereals. Research has shown a link to messing up hormone function and both are sadly suspected as a human carcinogens. I find it unacceptable to find such nastiness in kids products at all.

7) Methylisothiazolinone and Methylchloroisothiazolinone are widely used in shampoos and soaps.  As these are known neurotoxins, and are found in some kids products.   These compunds also used used in paper mills to control algae and fungus growth.  Yup, industrial chems. And be aware some ‘natural’ brands use these in children’s nail polish. So research your product ingredients to be sure you are getting something truly safe.

It is not so important what product or brand you use but that it is clean and offers no hint of potential health concerns.  And its good to note, ‘fancy’ brands are often no better. If in doubt, research and ask questions.

A great option to check what is in your products yourself is the Skin Deep database. It a valuable resource to check out ingredients in cosmetic and body care ingredients….even ingredients for which you may have sensitivities or allergies too. And if you find there is any suspected toxicity in an ingredient, of course you can research further.

I always like to say that we all need to become a warrior for our own family’s health. Only you can decide what level of risk you find acceptable where your family is concerned. And I take the stance that its best to figure out what level of risk is associated and then decide what I can live with. Nothing makes me crazier than someone trying to convince me about a particular chemical ‘It can’t be that bad or ‘Studies haven’t concluded…’  A ‘link’ to something horrible is enough to have me seek out alternatives where my family is concerned.

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.