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Which Sunscreen Is Safe and Which Ones Do I Avoid?

sunscreen applied on knee with heart form

While we all want to enjoy the warmer months, it’s important to stay safe in the sunshine, and ensure your sunscreen is effective. With the Summer holidays upon us, it’s vital to protect your kid’s skin as well as you own.

It’s well known that spending time in the sun increases the chances of skin cancer, so sun protection should be taken seriously. Along with tips such as staying in the shade, avoiding the most intense sunshine around the midday hours, and wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, sunscreen is essential to avoid burns and give further protection against harmful UV rays.

Unfortunately, not all sun protection has been created equally, leaving parents and families wondering which are the most effective and safe products to use. We’ve put together a list of products to use and pinpoint those you should avoid altogether.

What to Look Out For

Sprays vs. Lotions

While popular for their lack of mess, alcohol-based aerosol sunscreens are much thinner than lotions and can evaporate more easily, leaving skin exposed. Even the sprays which require rubbing in will leave a much thinner layer than applying lotion straight from the bottle.


Sunscreens can also contain chemicals which are harmful to the lungs if inhaled, making sprays the must-avoid product if around kids. Chemicals such as ‘oxybenzone’ act as an allergen, affecting the regulation of hormones and can be penetrated through the skin. Another harmful chemical is retinyl palmitate which may speed up the development of skin lesions and tumors when applied in sunlight, according to government studies. There are other alternatives you can use such as mineral-based sunscreens.


For those with allergies to certain products, sunscreen can leave them with an irritating skin reaction. Those with sensitive skin should monitor for reactions for a few days after using a product, with symptoms including itchy skin, rashes and even blistering. Sunscreens are usually one of two types – chemical or physical blocks. You may find switching to a different type helps and, there are products out there for sensitive skin.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

There are two types of UV radiation you need protection from – UVA and UVB. When looking at the SPF of a sunscreen, it indicates the protection against UVB rays only, which is the level of sunburn protection. Be aware of those branding themselves over SPF 50, as the FDA has confirmed there is no evidence that above 50 adds greater protection. Products marketing themselves as ‘SPF 70’ or ‘SPF 100’ offer a false sense of security. Also look for ‘broad spectrum’ on labeling, which indicates added protection from UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin layers than UVB rays.

Products to Avoid

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has recently scored some of these brands as providing some of the worst sunscreens for kids and adults.

1 – Banana Boat Kids Max Protect & Play Continuous Clear Spray Sunscreen (SPF 1)

Named as one of the worst sunscreens for kids by the EWG, this spray markets itself as SPF 100, contains oxybenzone and comes in spray form.
Others to avoid:
Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 100)

2 – Banana Boat Ultra Defense Continuous Clear Spray Sunscreen (SPF 100)

Marketing itself at SPF 100, the EWG estimate this has been overstated. Being a spray, it may not cover the skin completely and poses an inhalation risk.
Others to avoid:

  • Banana Boat Sport Performance Clear Ultramist Sunscreen Spray (SPF 100)
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance Lotion Sunscreen (SPF 100)

3 – Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids (SPF 70)

While marketing itself as SPF 70, this product only provides a moderate balance of UVA protection in relation to its SPF. It also contains both oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.
Others products to avoid:

  • Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam (SPF 70)
  • Coppertone Kids Sunscreen Continuous Spray (SPF 70+)
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion (SPF 70)
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies (SPF 55)
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies (SPF 70+)
  • Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids (SPF 55)

4 – Coppertone Sport Continuous Sunscreen Spray (SPF 100)

While marketing itself as SPF 100, EWG found this Coppertone Sport spray to have a poor balance of UVA protection in relation to its SPF.
Others to avoid:

  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 100)
  • Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Stick (SPF 55)

5 – Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray (SPF 70+)

This product comes in spray form, markets itself as SPF 70+ and contains oxybenzone.
Others to avoid:

  • Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen (SPF 60+)

6 – Neutrogena Age Shield Face Oil-Free Lotion Sunscreen (Broad Spectrum SPF 110)

Boasting an ambitious SPF 110, EWG have estimated this to be an overstatement. It contains oxybenzone and also Methylisothiazolinone, which is a skin allergen not allowed in European leave-on products.
Others to avoid:

  • Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen (SPF 60+)

7 – Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks (SPF 55)

Scoring as a bad choice for sun protection, the ingredients in this product pose a moderate health concern, containing both oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate.

List of 10 ‘Safe’ Sunscreens

The Environmental Working Group has again published its annual guide to sunscreens, meaning you can check out your product on their site and find one that fits your needs. Here are some of the ones which you can use safely.

1 – Bare Republic Mineral Sunscreens

From their sport sunscreen sticks to their baby sunscreen lotion, Bare Republic’s mineral range scores great with EWG, providing a good balance between UVA protection in relation to their SPF and free of harmful chemicals. They use the physical protection of zinc oxide mixed with other great ingredients such as aloe and shea butter.

2 – Badger Sunscreen Cream (SPF 30)

‘Badger’ sunscreens appear a total of 9 times on EWG’s best beach and sport sunscreens. This unscented product is great for allergy sufferers and uses just 5 ingredients!

3 – Raw Elements Eco Stick 30

This waterproof sunstick is packed with biologically active antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, making it a great hypoallergenic sunblock.

4 – Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin (SPF 50)

Not only is this product reasonably priced but it scores very highly with EWG and has excellent UVA protection.

5 – Goddess Garden Organics Facial Natural Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)

With no less than 12 products on EWG’s list of best beach and sport sunscreens, this brand is great to find the right product for you. This facial sunscreen is one of the cheapest and provides excellent UVA protection.

6 – Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen (SPF 50)

In contrast to their SPF 60+ product appearing on the ‘avoid’ list, this sunscreen provides excellent UVA protection with a good balance in relation to its SPF.

7 – Adorable Baby Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30+)

Making an appearance on EWG’s best scoring sunscreen lotions for kids, this is a 100% natural mineral sunblock.

8 – Tom’s of Maine Baby Sunscreen Lotion (SPF 30)

Also appearing on EWG’s best scoring sunscreen lotions for kids, this fragrance-free product is also hypoallergenic and has excellent UVA protection.

9 – Blue Lizard Australian Sunscreen Sensitive (SPF 30+)

This natural mineral-based product is widely available and contains ingredients such as beeswax. Chemical- and fragrance-free, it’s great for sensitive skin, with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

10 – Block Island Organics Natural Face Moisturizer (SPF 30)

For those searching for a moisturizer with excellent UVA protection, this product uses natural ingredients such as shea butter and aloe. It can also be worn under makeup.

There are plenty of great products out there when it comes to sun protection. Be savvy and know what to look out for, taking note of how skin reacts when you try a new product on yourself and your kids.

Walker’s Drug Store has been helping residents in Charlotte for almost a century. We provide advice, a range of sunscreen products and have some great sales available.

To speak to one of our pharmacists, contact us or pop in and see us.

This entry was posted in July 2017. Bookmark the permalink.

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