Q. The Environmental Working Group recently came out with a list of the best and worst sunscreens for kids, at ewg.org/sunscreen. What are the takeaways from the study?
A. Sonya Lunder is a senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. These are the major points of the report, she says:
n Avoid sprays: “With sprays, we’re worried about kids inhaling them and what that might do to their lungs,” Lunder says. They also may not provide a thick and even coating.
n Avoid SPF 70+: You want protection against UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays. If you’re not getting a sunburn, it’s a sign that UVB rays are blocked, she says. But the higher SPF offerings may not protect as well against UVA rays, she says. “UVA rays cause more subtle damage,” she says. Most industrialized nations cap SPF values at 50+, according to the report.
n Avoid certain ingredients: Ingredients such as oxybenzone, a hormone disruptor, or retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A that may harm skin, should be avoided, the report says. Sunscreens using zinc oxide and titanium dioxide rated well because they offer a balance between protection from UVA and UVB and don’t often contain potentially harmful additives, it says.
“Our concern is just drawing attention to the risks of sunblock, things happening over time that you may not notice,” Lunder says. “We’re calling for stronger rules to make sunscreen better. We’re trying to steer people toward those products.”
It can be a challenge to find the perfect product, Lunder says. Some leave a white tint, some feel pastier. Lunder has two children, ages 6 and 10. “I have not found the perfect thing,” she says. “More and more, we’re also trying to avoid sunburn by covering up.”