When it comes to summertime, most kids would spend all day every day playing outside. If that's the case for your little one, you're probably starting to wonder what kind of sunblock you should be stocking up on right about now. And you're not the only one: That's why the 2020 Safe Sunscreen Guide from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) couldn't have come at a better time. The annual report is packed with the latest scientific data and expert advice, including the best sunscreens for kids, and you might be surprised to see that your favorite brands are nowhere to be seen.
Walking down the sunscreen aisle at the store, you're bombarded with vibrant containers promising a product that's easy to apply, safe, effective, and water resistant. However, some products deliver on those promises better than others. In fact, the EWG found that only two of the eight most commonly-used active ingredients in sunscreen are "generally recognized as safe and effective." Carla Burns, a Research Analyst at the EWG, tells Romper that kids are more vulnerable than adults to the potentially harmful ingredients found in most sunscreens. Mineral-based sunscreens using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as their active ingredient are the best options to provide protection against UVA and UVB rays with minimal health hazards. Burns also cautions parents against sunscreen sprays (no matter the active ingredient), because further research is needed to determine their inhalation safety.
Every year, the EWG releases guides for sun safety which include a report on skin cancer, a general overview on where the US stands with sunscreen regulations, and a list of their top ranked sunscreens. Still, Burns wants parents to know that sun safety goes beyond sunscreen: Tight-knit (but loose) clothing, hats, sunglasses, and ample shade should also be provided to kids, says Burns. Additionally, sunscreen should be generously applied 15 minutes before sun exposure (so, don't let the kids jump right into the pool after applying) and reapplied every two hours or after each trip into the water and/or towel dry, whichever comes first.
Still, sunscreen is an important part of the sun safety equation. The EWG weighed several factors in determining which products to rank the highest, including UVA protection in relation to SPF number (a misleading correlation, according to Burns), the active ingredient's level of UVA/UVB protection, and any health concerns associated with other ingredients. The following products are the EWG's 5 top-ranked sunscreens formulated specifically for kids (a sixth product was unavailable for purchase at the time of this writing). If these sell out before you can add them to your cart, take a look at EWG's top-rated sunscreens made for babies. Burns says you can always use baby sunscreen on your big kids, especially if they have sensitive skin. The most important things to remember when it comes to sun safety: Remember to apply a generous amount of an effective sunscreen, and implement extra measures to reduce exposure to harmful rays.
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