Tag Archive for 'child-safe sunscreen'

6 Dangerous Chemicals to Avoid in Skincare Products

Recently a friend reached out to me after reading our 2011 Sunscreen Picks article. She wanted to know why we did not include a particular brand of sunscreen, which she had been using and had also begun to sell as an independent consultant.  I took a quick look at the company’s website, and was encouraged by the company’s choice of words.  ”Safe.  Pure.  Beneficial.” Next, I checked the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) cosmetics database and was surprised to find that they didn’t list the company, let alone ratings, for their skincare products.

So I asked this friend to send me the list of ingredients for each of their sunscreens.  She sent me the long lists of ingredients for two of their sunscreens.  I took one look at the ingredients and knew, right away, that I would never use the products.  The first ingredient that caught my eye was Oxybenzone, which rates an 8 on the EWG’s list of ingredients (on a scale of 0-10, with 10 being the most dangerous ingredients/products).  As a general rule of thumb, I only use products with ingredients that register a ’0′ or ’1′ on the EWG’s scale.  Oxybenzone causes developmental and reproductive toxicity, as well as reproductive birth defects.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists the skin as the “most common path of toxic substance exposure.”  It is the body’s largest organ and has outstanding absorption abilities.  That’s why it’s important to know what’s in the products that you’re using on your children, and yourself, especially if you’re pregnant.  As is the case with my friend’s skincare products, skincare product companies will market themselves as “natural, pure, safe.” But many of these claims are false.  It’s up to all of us to do our research.

We have compiled a list of ingredients to avoid in your skincare products.  This list is not all-encompassing, but we feel that these are some of the most dangerous, and/or most common, offenders.

  • Dioxanes (1,3 or 1,4-Dioxane) – 1,4-dioxane is a known carcinogen that contaminates up to 46% of personal care products tested (OCA 2008, EWG 2008).  In addition, it can wreak havoc on our immune systems and is a known allergen.  According to the EWG’s cosmetics database, “The chemical is an unwanted byproduct of an ingredient processing method called ethoxylation used to reduce the risk of skin irritation for petroleum-based ingredients. Though 1,4-dioxane can easily be removed from products before they are sold, its widespread presence in products indicates that many manufacturers fail to take this simple step.”
  • Triclosan – is used as an antibacterial agent and preservative.  Studies have shown that triclosan disrupts the endocrine system.
  • Parabens – are widely used as a preservative in skincare products.  Parabens mimic estrogen and can act as potential hormone (endocrine) system disruptors.
  • Mineral Oil – is added for fragrance and/or to protect the skin. Mineral oil is a liquid mixture made from petroleum.  There is strong evidence that it is toxic to the immune and respiratory system, and may cause cancer, especially if added to products that are inhaled (more studies are needed).
  • Oxybenzone – is used as a sunscreen agent, and a UV light absorber. According to the EWG, “This chemical absorbs through the skin in significant amounts. It contaminates the bodies of 97% of Americans according to Centers for Disease Control research.”  Oxybenzone is a known endocrine disruptor, and can cause developmental and reproductive toxicity, and immunotoxicity.
  • Fragrance – The skincare industry uses the term “fragrance” to hide 3,163 chemicals (including phthalates, octoxynols and nonoxynols, which are some of the most dangerous).  Pthalates are known hormone disruptors linked to reproductive birth defects.  The term “Fragrance” is also used in the candle and cleaning product industries

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself, and Your Babies, From These Harmful Chemicals?

1) Read labels!

2) Avoid products with fragrance

3) Look up your products on the Environmental W0rking Group’s Cosmetic’s Database

Want to learn more?  Here’s a list of 10 additional common chemicals in skincare products to avoid.

-What ingredients do you avoid in skincare products?
-What skincare products do you use?

Protecting Your Children’s Delicate Skin from the Sun

Reading Heather’s post on Tuesday regarding sunscreen and Vitamin A additives, I was surprised to learn that a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. In fact, I did a little research and found that just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence will more than double the chances of developing melanoma later in life. The same is true for a person who has had 5 or more sunburns at any age.

Melanoma is a less common form of skin cancer but also the most serious. While episodes like those above are linked to the development of melanoma, cumulative sunlight exposure is linked to the development of the much more common nonmelanoma skin cancers.

I’m sure after hearing the statistics above, you (like me) are now thinking back and recalling bad sunburns or stupid things you’ve done in the quest for a beautiful tan. Personally, I recall literally baking for days in Hawaii without a drop of sunscreen in an attempt to see how dark my Native American skin could get.

Now, I’m a little older and a little wiser…and a parent. My children inherited my husband’s fairer complexion, so I take much more precaution when exposing them to the sun. I get particularly concerned during the first six months when sunscreen is off-limits. The AAP has historically recommended that sunscreen not be applied on infants under 6 months of age. The Australian Cancer Society has come out, though, and said that there is no evidence to suggest that sunscreen on small areas of a baby’s skin has any long-term effects, so the AAP now recommends that when you’re not able to fully protect an infant’s skin with clothing, sunscreen on areas such as the face, neck, and back of the hands is reasonable. Just make sure you select a sunscreen void of Vitamin A, as Heather suggested earlier this week.

Here are some additional tips for choosing a child-friendly sunscreen from the Child Health Advocacy Institute, cited at WebMD:

(1) Choose a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, because the compounds are less irritating than others and do not get absorbed into the skin.
(2) Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
(3) Make sure it’s labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA causes sunburn, while UVB is the main cause of wrinkles.
(4) Sunscreen sticks are best for the face because they are sweat proof and less likely to drip.

Always put sunscreen on your child before going outside. In the same article at WebMD, the author suggests the acronym BEENS to help you remember to cover often-forgotten spots: Back of knees, Ears, Eye area, Neck, and Scalp.

In addition to applying sunscreen, consider these tips for sun safety:

(1) Minimize exposure between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Take advantage of shade when possible, especially when your shadow is shorter than you are tall. Keep in mind that the sun is reflected off of many surfaces including sand, cement, water, and snow.

(2) Cover up. Dress in lightweight clothing that covers the body. Avoid sundresses and tank tops that leave the back and shoulders exposed, areas which receive a lot of sun when kids are playing. Bright or dark-colored clothes that have a tighter weave offer the best protection. You can also buy clothing that is specially treated with chemicals to protect against ultraviolet light or wash your clothes in SunGuard, a laundry additive recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation that contains a sunscreen. When added to the wash, it gives clothing a UPF of 30 and supposedly lasts for about 20 washings.

(3) Wear a hat and sunglasses. Choose a wide-brimmed hat that shields the face and sunglasses that filter both UVA and UVB rays. UV radiation has been linked to cataracts later in life.

(4) Set an example for your children by practicing sun protection yourself.

Related Posts:
Is Your Sunscreen ‘Safe’? Vitamin A Added to Sunscreens May Do More Harm Than Good
Don’t Get Burned by Unsafe Sunscreens

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