I Need...Sunscreen

>> Thursday, June 10, 2010

This past weekend, we headed down to Wilmington for some fun times on one of North Carolina's beautiful beaches. As soon as we got there, we dutifully slathered our boys with sunscreen - I had bought a couple bottles of Nature's Gate Mineral Kidsblock because it was on sale at Whole Foods and scores a 3 with the EWG.

Admittedly, we were on the beach for about four hours and forgot to reapply after two hours, but still...Nature's Gate Mineral Kidsblock is total crap. It's so thick that it's hard to spread and even feels a little crumbly the more you rub it. It doesn't soak into the skin, which might be good since it contains nanoparticles (like all mineral sunscreens) but leaves you looking like a chalky ghost. (Yes, my vanity is at play here, but who wants to look ridiculous when at the beach?) When you get into the water, the sunscreen just rinses right off (yay, $8 washed out into the ocean!). And to top it off, my kids went home with one of those sunburns that doesn't rear it's ugly head until hours after you're out of the sun and then gets progressively worse and worse until it hurts to move.

Back to the sunscreen drawing board...

The Environmental Working Group came out with its 2010 Sunscreen Guide a month or two ago, so I spent an hour last night reading every bit of it. Here's what I learned:

  • There are two types of sunscreens: chemical and mineral. The most common ingredient in chemical sunscreens is oxybenzone, which is potentially a hormone disrupter. Mineral sunscreens contain nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, but the EWG has determined that these are safer than the alternative.
  • Some sunscreens contain Vitamin A, and this may be causing tumors and lesions.
  • Pale white folk like myself and two of my boys should look for a high SPF and slather it on (which I knew) but an SPF higher than 50 is bogus.
  • It's better to use a cream sunscreen than a spray because you could end up inhaling things you don't want to. I know it's easier to apply a spray to an antsy child, but I personally have always preferred creams because I can tell where I'm applying and if I'm putting enough on (though that's moot if I forget to reapply like I did last weekend!).
Even not knowing all of that, I had picked a pretty good sunscreen as far as safety. It's a mineral sunscreen with both zinc and titanium and it's fragrance-free. With an SPF of 20, it's probably not effective enough for the beach, but it's fine for everyday wear. But the other factors (the crumbliness, the chalkiness, the not-at-all waterproof-ness) have me searching for a new sunscreen.

A couple contenders:
The issue is always price...

The Nature's Gate sunscreen cost me $8 for 4 oz. on sale. Of the options listed above, the cheapest is the Episencial at $15 for a 4 oz., and the prices go way up from there. Considering that we go through an entire bottle of sunscreen every time we go swimming, that's a big deal. I'm wondering if it would be more cost effective to buy all of them sunshirts so we would need to apply less sunscreen. Or maybe just make them wear t-shirts.

Have any of you found a sunscreen you love?


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Green Girl June 10, 2010 at 12:18 PM  

YES! I too was trying to find good options for sunscreen, after ridding all of my beauty products that were harmful based on the SKin Deep Database.

The best sunscreen I have found is called Caribbean Solutions - http://www.caribbean-sol.com/.

I have both the SPF face screen that I wear everyday under my makeup and the SPF 25 Sol Kid Biodegradeable screen. It's very sensitive and goes on very nicely! Another great thing is it's reef friendly! Check it out! it's worth it!

abbie June 10, 2010 at 1:23 PM  

this post couldn't have come at a better time. I just hate the Burt's Bees Sunscreen. TERRIBLE. (Thought I do use the facial sunscreen, it is ok.) comes off, doesn't protect, chalky ghost syndrome, sticky, messy, smells horrid...
Badger is also on my list. I have it in my kitchen waiting to be tried out.
I am currently trying out Desert Essence Organics Daily Sun Protection SPF30. It is expensive, but I like the smell, it does make you a little white, but it spreads easily, doesn't come off, and isn't sticky. Now about the coverage, my jury is still out on this one. Oh, my kids with sensitive skins haven't had bad reactions to this one.
Keep us posted on your quest for a decent natural sunscreen.

Scrappy_Lady June 10, 2010 at 2:23 PM  

Well, it's not perfect, but Coppertone
Water Babies Pure and Simple Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50, worked well for us last weekend. (It's a "3", though.)

For swimming, we LOVE swimshirts. They are WELL worth the investment, I think. My kids think they're just part of the swim experience and wear them even when at indoor water slides. I've gotten so used to them that seeing them in the water without their swimshirts just seems really weird.

Eco Yogini June 10, 2010 at 2:43 PM  

AWESOME, thank you SO much for researching this!!! I was just thinking- another yoga in the park sans sunscreen will end badly (already burned from the last one).

What is interesting- is that my mineral makeup powder that I wore while out in the sun practicing yoga (as a fellow makeup lover I think you'll understand?.... i hope!), actually PREVENTED my face from burning! no burn whatsoever.

but my arms and shoulders- they were painfully red for a few days.

mineral makeup all the way. (although I hear you need a certain kind, there are certain mineral makeup ingredients to avoid. i think those with "nano particles". I tried to find out if mine has that- but nothing on their website. i'm considering emailing the company).

Michelle,  June 10, 2010 at 2:51 PM  

I don't have kids, but I am a very pale person myself and I have suffered thru wicked sun burns from time to time since I was a child. I have used the California Baby product and the Jason sunscreen product and both were reasonably spreadable and kept me to minimum damage. I am going to use up my supply of affordable Neutrogena sunscreen then switch to a more friendly product. I really thought (hoped!) the Neutrogena stuff was going to be one of the better ones, as I have concentrated on finding titanium and zinc dioxide in my sunscreens for awhile, and I was disappointed that it did not score better. I will be following comments to see what others have to say.

Jana June 10, 2010 at 4:29 PM  

I use aubrey organics green tea sunscreen-does make you a bit white- a little hard to rub in. And we use Trader Joes brand which is usually a knock-off of some wonderful product. I like it but I haven't researched the ingredients. Affordable though.

greenmomintheburbs June 10, 2010 at 5:47 PM  

Jana, thanks for the Trader Joe tip--I never even thought to look there.

We just got a bottle of Aubrey "Natural Sun," and we'll give that one a try...but YEAH, it's a problem.

I am one of those "cover up the skin" people, as in wear t-shirts and hats all the time and minimize the amount of skin the sun even sees, but it's not always easy to convince my kids it's a good idea.

I'm honestly on the verge of giving up on this one, and just going, "Okay, this is an area where we'll allow a little abuse to the toxic load of our bodies, shower well whenever we use it, and work even harder in some other area to keep buildup down in my kids' bodies." I hate to, but I'm getting close. So if anyone has any brilliant ideas...:-)

CatM13 June 10, 2010 at 6:10 PM  

Hey! Since you are in Raleigh you can get the Badger sunscreen at Harmony Farms. I bought a tube (2.9 oz) for $12 there. It is not chalky. It is very thick though. It goes on well and I wasn't left looking like a ghost (at least not because of the sunscreen). I haven't tried it in water though. The tube does say reapply after 45 mins of vigorous exercise or water exposure.

Condo Blues June 10, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

I also a fair person who burns like a vampire in the sun. Someone on Twitter told me she likes to use California Baby for her kids but the only drawback is that it is hard to apply because it's really thick. I bought a tube of Alba which the same person said is what she uses for herself. You have to check Skin Deep because not all of the Alba brands are rated the same. I haven't used it yet - too much rain!

Brenda Pike June 11, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

Thanks for the tip—I almost picked up the Nature's Gate sunblock this week. We usually use Kiehl's, and although it is a chemical sunscreen, it contains avobenzone, which the EWG recommends over oxybenzone. And it's not tested on animals, which is my main criteria.

Wonder-ful June 11, 2010 at 12:38 PM  

I hate sunscreen, but I also tend to look like I'm part lobster after 30 minutes so it's a necessity (that I loath!).

I have skin issues too and the dermatologist recommended two different brands of products. Unfortunately...only one makes sunscreen. The Aveeno stuff makes my skin white (when I use the bottle for the face) but works. Went camping Memorial day and applied it once (forgot to re-apply) and at the end of the day (long day) was only slightly red. My back got burned (stupid Coppertone crud) but my face didn't :D

Sunscreen is the one area where I forgo checking ingredients in favor of finding something that works and doesn't irritate my skin.

Kim and Ken Carlile June 16, 2010 at 10:29 PM  

I don't have any sunscreen tips, but my boys also wear the swim shirts and I think they are great. You can get them for a fairly reasonable price (I paid $5 a piece for mine at The Children's Place) and it leaves little exposure for sun while at the pool. Abe won't swim without one because he is so used to it.

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