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Sunscreen Dangers in Children

Get Outside and Enjoy the Sunshine

By: Dr. Melissa Sonners

Recently, information has been published regarding initial opinions on the safety of three UV filters, oxybenzone, homosalate and octocrylene. These are three of the most common ingredients in many sunscreens.

The findings suggest that sunscreen manufacturers are legally allowed to use these ingredients at concentrations well above the proposed limit.  Many sunscreens in the U.S use concentrations of these ingredients that far exceed the standards of other countries which continue to be far ahead of us when it comes to health standards for our food, personal health products and more.

We now know, based on many studies, that these ingredients are linked to hormone disruption, skin irritations and allergies and more.  These ingredients are all absorbed into the skin and body after just one use and can be detected on the skin and in breast milk and urine samples weeks after application.

The CDC found that in American children, adolescent boys with higher oxybenzone measurements (one of the most common ingredients in sunscreen) had significantly lower testosterone levels. (

Many rely on the FDA to protect them from safe products, but currently the agency does NOT require companies to test their products for contamination and many companies that contain toxic, carcinogenic ingredients are not revealed until many have been using them for years.  We must be educated consumers and look out for what is best for our personal health and family’s health without depending on outside agencies to do it for us.

While much is not known and further research needs to be completed, we don’t yet know if these ingredients are “safe & effective.”

Ingredients to avoid:

  • Avobenzone

    • Endocrine disruptor and can cause allergic reactions

  • Benzene

    • Known carcinogen widely found in aerosol sunscreens

  • Homosalate

    • Widely used in sunscreens.

    • Penetrates the skin

    • Disrupts hormones and produces toxic breakdown byproducts

  • Octinoxate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate)

    •  Animal studies show hormone effects on the metabolic system

    • Affects thyroid hormone production and can impact androgen and progesterone signaling

    •  Can cause allergic reactions to exposure to UV light.

  • Octisalate

    • May affect endocrine system

  • Octocrylene

    • Absorbs through the skin at 14 times the FDA cutoff for systemic exposure

    • Causes aquatic toxicity harming marine animals & coral health

    • Often contaminated with the known carcinogen benzophenone

  • Oxybenzone

    • The most “worrisome active ingredient in sunscreen” according to scientific research.

    • Readily absorbed through the skin.

    •  Behaves as an endocrine disruptor and causes greater harm in children (FDA 2019).

Lotion is safer in general than aerosol as it is less likely to contain a potentially carcinogenic ingredient, Benzene.   Benzene is a petroleum-derived toxic chemical widely known to cause cancer and other serious health effects.  Currently, there is no established level of Benzene that is considered safe for human exposure.  Recently, many common brand-named sunscreens were recalled due to traces of Benzene in them.

In our family, we don’t avoid the sun.  Sun exposure plays an important role in so many of our body’s vital functions. Sunlight is essential for generating the production of Vitamin D, supporting bone health, lowering blood pressure, preventing disease and promoting mental health.  It also strengthens our immune system, improves sleep, reduces stress and fights off depression.  Exposure to sunlight also increases the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin which boosts our mood.  Serotonin is also the precursor to our sleep enhancer, melatonin.  Ever wonder why a day outdoors promotes such great sleep? You can thank the sun for helping you make serotonin for that.

At the same time, we do know some sun protection is important.  Recently, much research is being revealed that fragile, processed oils like soybean oil, canola oil, vegetable oil, shortening, corn oil, margarine, sunflower oil and safflower oil will make your skin more sensitive to sun damage.  I can personally attest to this as a child who used to BURN all the time.  My diet was full of seed oils and I also now know that much of my burn and skin irritation was directly caused by the ingredients in sunscreens that I was sensitive to.

We tend to spend time in the sun during off peak hours and spend more time in the shade during peak sun.  We wear hats and clothes that protect our skin when we feel it’s time to give our skin a break.

In addition, at times we use Shea butter as a protective layer. Although it provides very low SPF (about 7), we find it’s often enough when we are aware of our peak time exposure.

For people wanting traditional sunscreen options I have scoped out the best of the best and will share them here.  Thank you to the Environmental Workers Group for making this simple. (

EWG is a  non-for-profit whose mission is to empower you with breakthrough research to make informed choices and live a healthy life in a healthy environment.  You can share your email address with them and you will get monthly informative emails on the best sunscreens, household products, personal products and more.  You can also enter any product into their search engine and they will rate the level of toxicity so you can make informed decisions on what is best for you and your family.

They rate products on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most toxic.  I prefer to only use products rated as a 1, however I have also included some rated as a 2 below in case it makes access easier.

Additionally, when choosing a sunscreen be sure to check the ingredient label and ensure all ingredients are safe.

Ingredients considered safe:

Zinc Oxide & Titanium Dioxide– these should be the only two main ingredients.  Be mindful of other “inactive ingredients” as often those make up 70% or more of the product so be sure to read the full ingredient list.

Best baby & kids sunscreen:

Rated as a 1 (least toxic) on EWG toxicity scale:

  • Raw Elements Baby + Kids Sunscreen Lotion Tin, SPF 30

  • Earth Mama Kids Uber- Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF

  • All Good Kids Sunscreen Butter Stick, SPF 50

Rated as a 2 on EWG:

  • Kiss My Face Organics Kids Defense Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

  • Banana Boat Kids Sport Sunscreen Stick, SPF 50

  • Banana Boat Simply Protect Baby Sunscreen Stick SPF 50

  • Burt’s Bees Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30

  • Cerave Baby Hydrating Mineral Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 45

Best Daily SPF:

Rated 1 on EWG:

  • Love Sun Body Glow Natural Tinted Mineral Sunscreen & Moisturizer Lotion, SPF 30

Rated 2 on EWG:

  • Beautycounter Countersun Daily Sheer Defense for Face, SPF 25

Best Recreational Sunscreen

Rated 1 on EWG:

  • Earth Mama Tinted Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 25 (rated 1 on EWG)

  • 365 Everyday value sport mineral sunscreen lotion SPF 30 (Rated 1 on EWG)

Rated 2 on EWG:

  • BeautyCounter CounterSun Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 30 (rated 2 on EWG)

Worst Sunscreens.  Rated as a 7-10 (most toxic) on EWG:

  • Banana Boat Kids Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 65

  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Clear Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100

  • Neutrogena Wet skin sunscreen spray, SPF 50 – carcinogenic ingredients, endocrine disruptor, biochemical cellular level changes

  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Continuous Spray, SPF 100

The ingredients in the products listed above are known to cause reproductive toxicity, allergies, immunotoxicity, endocrine (hormone) disruption & are persistently bioaccumulated

Sun exposure plays a vital role in our health & vitality.  We can take steps through our diet, as well as through planning out our exposure to off peak sun in order to keep our skin healthy.  There are also now many options for sunscreen that contain safe ingredients.  I hope this has helped make finding those products easy for you.

Be sure to follow our social media platforms where we share helpful tips and hacks for keeping your family healthy.

IG: @Drs_Sonners


Now get outside and enjoy that sunshine!