The 2019 EWG Safe Sunscreen Guide Is Here To Help You Enjoy The Sun Safely

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Each year, the summer sun comes blazing into our lives with a fury like no other. Ensuring that you and your loved ones are safe while having fun in the sun is priority number one. This means plenty of hydration, proper clothing, and of course, using a good sunscreen. The 2019 Safe Sunscreen Guide from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released this year’s sunscreen guide, complete with everything parents need to know when choosing sunscreen for their family that is safe and effective.

The EWG's 13th annual guide is chock full of anything and everything you want to know about what is in your family's sunscreen. Their researchers have painstakingly assessed more than 1,300 sunscreens to compile a master list of sunscreens and sun protectant moisturizers based on efficacy and safety. Their user-friendly web database makes it easy for you to browse through your favorite brands to quickly see how they stack up based on factors like their ingredients, SPF rating, and how well they meet the FDA's sunscreen safety standards.

In February, the FDA proposed new sunscreen safety standards based on updated scientific research surrounding sun safety. Although sunscreens on shelves this summer do not have to adhere to these proposed guidelines just yet, the EWG has taken them into consideration for their sunscreen guide. "The new proposed FDA rules underscore concerns with the sunscreen industry that EWG has been highlighting since we published our first sunscreens guide in 2007," Carla Burns, EWG research analyst tells Romper. "Similar to the main points in the FDA’s proposed rules, EWG has always advocated that mineral-based actives are the best option when it comes to ingredient safety and efficacy, that products with high SPF can be misleading consumers and can promote overexposure to damaging UVA rays, and that UVA standards need to be strengthened."

To get your family ready to celebrate the sunshine, grab one of these top-rated sunscreens or explore the other great options listed in the EWG's guide this year.


Keeping your family safe in the sun is easier than you think, but it does take some time, effort, and research to make sure that you are doing more help than harm. As science evolves, it makes sense to update our SPF routines accordingly. Here are some tips to get you ready for a summer full of safe sun protection.

Know What's In Your Sunscreen

Reading labels is one sure way to know exactly what is in the sunscreen you're using. You can even use the EWG's sunscreen label decoder to help demystify the language on those pesky labels.

"Our advice to consumers is to opt for mineral-based products with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide active ingredients and to avoid products with potentially hazardous ingredients like oxybenzone, an endocrine disrupting chemical, and retinyl palmitate, which may speed the growth of skin tumors and lesions on sun-exposed skin," Burns says.

Educate Yourself On Safe Ingredients

According to the new FDA safety standards, some common sunscreen ingredients that have been around for years are now listed as unsafe. To double-check whether or not the ingredients in your sunscreen are safe, you can search the EWG's guide for your sunscreen and see a list of how safe or unsafe each ingredient is based on their 1-10 ranking system and more information about why.

"Some ingredients commonly found in sunscreens have been linked to both human and environmental concerns," Burns says. "For example, oxybenzone is a widely used non-mineral active ingredient, yet it is a skin sensitizer and hormone disruptor that is potentially harmful to both children and adults. Despite the known toxicity concerns about oxybenzone and the fact that it has been found in almost all Americans, the ingredient is found in two-thirds of non-mineral sunscreens."

Don't Depend On Sunscreen Alone

Depending on sunscreen alone for sun protection is like relying on just an umbrella to keep you protected from the rain. Sure, an umbrella will help keep you mostly dry, but wearing a raincoat, rain hat, and galoshes will provide even more protection for your entire body.

"Proper sun protection includes additional measures such as wearing protective clothing, hats, sunglasses, and avoiding peak or midday sun, and staying in the shade," Burns says. "If you’re outdoors with babies or toddlers, it’s best to cover them up with tightly woven, loose fitting clothing and a sun hat."

Look For SPF 50 Or Lower

This may seem counterintuitive, but EWG experts recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF 50 or lower. A sunscreen with a high SPF can provide a false sense of security and leave people thinking that they need to reapply less often because they have more protection, but this is just simply not the case. Using a lower SPF and reapplying more frequently is key.

Schedule Smarter

When planning outdoor activities, try to plan to be outside during the morning and evening hours when the UV radiation is not at its peak. You'll still need sunscreen and protective clothing, but both will be more effective if you are enjoying your outdoor activities outside of times when the sun is bearing directly down on you.

Reapplication Of Lotion Is Key

Because aerosol sunscreen can be inhaled, they pose a higher risk to users — especially kids. Kids also may just be too wiggly to get spray sunscreen applied evenly for the most effective coverage. "While spray sunscreen products may be convenient and appealing for a quick application on a child that won’t sit still, we recommend staying away from the sprays. They may not provide adequate skin coverage and can pose inhalation risks," says Burns.

So, it's best to use a lotion-based sunscreen for safety's sake and make sure to reapply often. Water, sand, towels, and the sun can break down or rub off the sunscreen once applied, so be sure to reapply often to ensure maximum effectiveness.

Help Your Kids Stay Sun Safe

"Sun protection is very important at a young age since severe sunburns during childhood can increase a person’s lifetime chances of developing serious forms of skin cancer, like melanoma," Burns says.

Make sure your kids are aware that wearing sunscreen and sun protective clothing is non-negotiable and be sure you're using a sunscreen that is safe and effective. "We suggest using mineral-based sunscreen lotions, containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, for babies and kids — particularly ones that include zinc oxide since it can provide good broad spectrum sun protection," Burns says.

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