Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Have Been Reported Worst For Kids

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Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Have Been Reported Worst For Kids
Most Sunscreens Are Bad, But These 7 Brands Have Been Reported Worst For Kids
Graphic © Photo © AdobeStock 22488421 (under license)

The Environmental Working Group is a U.S. nonprofit organization that created Skin Deep, a cosmetics safety database which indexes and scores consumer products based on their ingredients. The database was established as a resource for consumers who can search by ingredient or product when choosing personal care products.

One of the personal care products covered by the online resource is sunscreens. The EWG first published an analysis of more than 900 sunscreens in 2007.

The environmental organization recently released its tenth report on the current crop of sunscreen products. The sunscreen guide presents a comprehensive look at their assessment of the best and worst in sun protection options. The spring report rated 750 sunscreens, 500 SPF-labeled moisturizers and 100 lip products based on safety. So what are the best and worst sunscreen labels out there? We are pleased to share it with you.

Best Sunscreen Products

More than 200 products successfully met the EWG criteria. Listed below are some of the brands that made the very restrictive list.

1. Beach And Sport

• 3LAB – SPF 50+
• ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Vanilla Blossom – SPF 30
• All Good Unscented Sunstick – SPF 30
• Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen Lotion, Fragrance-Free – SPF 30
• Babyganics Pure Mineral Sunscreen Stick – SPF 50+
• Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream, Unscented – SPF 35
• California Baby Everyday/Year-Round Sunscreen Stick – SPF 30+
• Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Sensitive – SPF 30+
• MDSolarSciences Mineral Creme Sunscreen – SPF 30
• Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Face – SPF 50
• Star Naturals Baby Natural Sunscreen Stick – SPF 25
• Thinksport Sunscreen – SPF 50+
• All Terrain AquaSport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30

2. Moisturizers

• Suntegrity Skincare 5 in 1 Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen, Fair – SPF 30
• Thinksport Every Day Face Sunscreen – SPF 30+
• Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses CC Moisturizing Color + Correct, Sheer Tan – SPF 30
• Badger Damascus Rose Sheer Tint Face Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 25
• bareMinerals Prep Step Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion – SPF 50
• Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer – SPF 30
• Keys Care Solar Rx Moisturizer with Sunscreen – SPF 30+
• Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream, Desert Glow – SPF 30

3. Kid-Friendly Sunscreens

• Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30+
• All Good Kid’s Sunscreen – SPF 33
• All Terrain KidSport Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30
• ATTITUDE Little Ones 100% Mineral Sunscreen, Fragrance-Free – SPF 30
• Badger Kids Sunscreen Cream – SPF 30
• babyhampton beach*bum sunscreen – SPF 30
• Bare Belly Organics Baby Sunscreen – SPF 30
• Belly Buttons & Babies Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30
• Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen, Baby – SPF 30+
• BurnOut Kids Physical Sunscreen – SPF 35
• California Baby Super Sensitive Sunscreen – SPF 30+
• COOLA Suncare Baby Mineral Sunscreen Unscented Moisturizer – SPF 50
• Goddess Garden Kids Sport Natural Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30
• Hampton Sun Sunscreen Lotion For Baby – SPF 45
• Jersey Kids Mineral Sunscreen Lotion – SPF 30
• Kiss My Face Organics Kids Mineral Sunscreen – SPF 30
• Nurture My Body Baby Organic Sunscreen – SPF 32
• Sunology Natural Sunscreen, Kids – SPF 50

Worst Sunscreen For Kids

The 2016 report added more focus on children’s sunscreens. The list cited 37 products marketed for children that earned the worst scores, 7 to 10. Thirteen brands contain oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate, and SPFs above 50+. Four products were identified as aerosol sprays which can be harmful [1] to sensitive young lungs. The following brands received the worst scores.

Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Sunscreen Lotion
SPF 100 – EWG Rating, 10

The product’s SPF as reported by EWG is much less than the advertised value. The sunscreen provides moderate UVA protection. It contains the hormone disruptor oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate which may damage sun-exposed skin.

Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion
SPF 70+ – EWG Rating, 10

Claimed SPF is above 50 which offers a false sense of security. The product provides moderate UVA protection. High health concern posed by the product’s ingredients including oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

CVS Baby Sunstick Sunscreen
SPF 55 – EWG Rating, 7

Also contains oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate which presents moderate health issues. The product offers a moderate balance of UVA protection in relation to the SPF.

Equate Kids Sunscreen Stick
SPF 55 – EWG Rating, 7

This sunscreen is a bad choice for sun protection and offers only moderate UVA protection.

Hampton Sun Continuous Mist Sunscreen For Kids
SPF 70 – EWG Rating, 7

This spray sunscreen also provides moderate UVA protection and contains oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray
SPF 70+ – EWG Rating, 7

Another spray sunscreen that poses inhalation risk and contains the hormone disruptor oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A.

Key Findings In The Report

More than 10 percent of the sunscreens evaluated have sky-high claimed SPFs or above 50+. SPF offers only protection against UVB rays which burn the skin. However products that have high SPFs have no ability to protect skin from UVA rays which may cause skin cancer, suppress the immune system, and accelerate skin aging. The relation between skin cancer and solar UV radiation was confirmed by a British study [2] in 2009. It highlights the clear role of solar UV radiation exposure in inducing skin cancer. Another study [3] suggested the potential role of UV radiation in the carcinogenesis of three major cancers including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

Oxybenzone, an active ingredient in sunscreens, is found in more than 40 percent of the beach and sports sunscreens evaluated. This chemical can trigger allergic reactions and has been linked by research studies to health disorders such as lower birth rate in newborn girls. Also known as benzophenone-3, oxybenzone was found to have an effect on the development of offspring [4] during pregnancy.

Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, is present in 14 percent of SPF-rated moisturizers and 10 percent of SPF-rated lip products. This anti-aging oxidant may trigger skin tumors and lesions, according to several studies. A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program explored the effect of topical applications of cream containing retinyl palmitate on the photocarcinogenic activity of simulated solar light. The researchers discovered increased multiplicities of in-life lesions and increased presence of squamous cell neoplasm, the beginning of skin cancer. [5]

Mineral sunscreens earned favorable ratings from EWG. Most of these products contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide in the form of nanoparticles, which are one-twentieth the width of a human hair. Mineral sunscreens are among the best on the American market for several reasons including their inability to penetrate / be absorbed by the skin and the unlikelihood of causing damage when energized by sunlight. [6]

EWG Sunscreen Guide’s Impact On The Industry and Government Policies

The annual guide has brought significant improvements on behalf of consumers in terms of invoking actions from the personal care industry and driving the FDA to regulate sunscreen manufacturers. Here are some areas where developments are promising.

• Usage of sunscreens with vitamin A has declined by 25% between 2010 and 2016. The 2010 EWG report linked vitamin A on the sun-exposed skin to an increased risk of skin cancer.

• More sunscreen brands are manufactured to filter UVA rays. Ninety-nine percent of the products in the recent guide were developed to filter the harmful rays.

• The percentage of mineral-only sunscreens has doubled between 2007 and 2016.

• The FDA developed new water resistance and labeling guidelines for sunscreens. [7] The agency requires all manufacturers to include warnings about skin cancer and aging.

• The FDA prevents health and beauty companies from including misleading claims [8] like waterproof and sunblock.

• The Sunscreen Innovation Act was enacted by U.S. President Barack Obama. [9] This law created an improved process for the FDA to review and approve new ingredients for sunscreens.

Further Reading:

FDA: Don’t Use Spray Sunscreens On Children

How to Make Amazing Natural Homemade Sunscreen


[1] Collaborative Learning Through Environmental and Aerosol Research. Center for Aerosol Impacts on Chemistry of the Environment.

[2] Charlotte Young. (2009). Solar ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer.

[3] Wu S et. al. (2014). Cumulative ultraviolet radiation flux in adulthood and risk of incident skin cancers in women.

[4] Huo W et. al. (2016). The relationship between prenatal exposure to BP-3 and Hirschsprung’s disease.

[5] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Photocarcinogenesis Study of Retinoic Acid and Retinyl Palmitate.

[6] Threes G. Smijs and Stanislav Pavel. (2011). Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens: focus on their safety and effectiveness.

[7] Gardiner Harris. (2011). F.D.A. Unveils New Rules About Sunscreen Claims.

[8] U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (2012). Labeling and Effectiveness Testing: Sunscreen Drug Products for Over-The-Counter Human Use — Small Entity Compliance Guide.

[9] Sunscreen Innovation Act. (2014).

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