So it's heating up. And I'm (for once) not talking global warming. Moms and dads from all over the place are asking about sunscreen. Some of them are taking early spring beach vacations, others are gearing up for the summer.
Either way, all want to know what is safe.
The question is such an evergreen, I wasn't even sure I wanted to write about it here (I tend to just write parents back via email) but then someone forwarded me an Environmental Working Group blog post about a new study wherein the CDC found toxic sunscreen chemical in 97% of Americans.
And. I. Stopped. In. My. Tracks. Jaw. Open. (Again.)
How many chemicals floating around in our bodies that aren't supposed to be in our bodies is it going to take to get some regulation? Come on people!
The chemical in question here is oxybenzone. This blog post goes on to explain the EWG says it has been linked to all sorts of loveliness, including allergies, hormone disruption, cell damage. When it penetrates the skin of a sun-wary pregnant mother, it can lead to low birth weight in baby girls, according to a study from the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. EWG found oxybenzone in almost 600 sunscreens sold in the U.S. (among other cosmetics).
Apparently the FDA hasn't looked into the chemical's safety since the 1970's, back when my own mother was probably slathering it on herself as she carried me in utero. Today there are still no finalized standards. The EWG says the FDA asks people who make sunscreen to voluntary follow draft guidelines.
I shouldn't be shocked or depressed. But I am. There is so much to avoid in any given day and consumers are total guinea pigs.
We wrote about avoiding certain sunscreens in The Complete Organic Pregnancy many contain suspected carcinogens. Our suggestion was and is to use products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. They are said to effectively block the sun while resting on top of the skin, instead of getting absorbed into it.
I do like sun but tend to avoid it as I have a history of skin cancer in the family. That said, I didn't have to heed our advice when pregnant. I couldn't set foot in the sun then it made me sick to my stomach. I figured it was nature's way of protecting the babe from some kind of harm. Once she arrived, I started experimenting with the purest versions out there on me. Most doctors will tell you not to put sunscreen on a baby under 6 months. I didn't even want to put anything on my daughter after that. I kept her in the shade, and under canopies of fabric woven to repel the sun's rays. Eventually, though, the kid was walking and moving like no other. Which isn't a bad thing sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D, which isn't easy to get from other sources. Last summer she fell in love with the sprinklers in New York City playgrounds, and I fell in love with miniature rash guards, made from similar tightly woven sun-blocking fabric. She looked like a tiny surfer.
She inspired me, and I've since invested in some UV-protective fabric myself (not the chemically treated kind, of course). I also slathered her exposed bits with the two quite organic, very pure BDIH-certified sunscreens I had been using: one by my favorite holistic line Dr. Hauschka (they have SPF 15, including a new spray version, SPF 20, and SPF 30 specifically for children and sensitive skin which to be honest is quite greasy. It doesn't bother me but some people don't like that feeling. They also have a SPF 30 stick that is great to have in a purse or diaper bag and glides easily over a small nose).
The other kind I use is by Lavera. They even have a chlorophyll-dyed green version so you can see where it has and hasn't covered. It comes in a handy pump bottle. There are other non-organic, chemically ok sunscreens on the market I know other green families like to use (like California Baby or Blue Lizard Baby) but I'm the organic mom. So of course I choose organic.
Here's to spring.
Try these EWG-recommended natural sunscreens free of toxic chemicals.
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