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EWG’s Worst Scoring Sunscreens for Kids

There are a lot of sunscreens on the market. Parents have some good choices, but there are other products you should avoid. Forty-six products marketed to children earn an EWG sunscreen rating of 7 to 10, the worst scores for products in this year’s Sunscreen Guide.

Twelve of these sunscreens for kids and babies have several strikes against them: oxybenzone, retinyl palmitate and SPFs above 50+. Five have an additional strike for being aerosol sprays that don’t provide a thick, even coating on skin and that can expose sensitive young lungs to potentially hazardous chemicals. Two products score 10 because, in addition to other formulation concerns, the labeled SPF is very different than EWG’s estimated value.

Banana Boat Kids Continuous Spray Sunscreen, SPF 100
Banana Boat Kids Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 100
Coppertone Foaming Lotion Sunscreen Kids Wacky Foam, SPF 70
Coppertone Sunscreen Continuous Spray Kids, SPF 70
Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Kids, SPF 70
Coppertone Sunscreen Lotion Water Babies, SPF 70+
Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Kids, SPF 55
Coppertone Sunscreen Stick Water Babies, SPF 55
Coppertone Sunscreen Water Babies Foaming Lotion, SPF 70
CVS Health Children’s Sunstick Sunscreen, SPF 55
Equate Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 70
Neutrogena Pure & Free Baby Sunscreen, SPF 60+
Neutrogena Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen Spray, SPF 70+
Up & Up Kids Sunscreen Sticks, SPF 55

How we picked the worst scoring products for kids:

We selected products unambiguously marketed for use on babies and children by including those with the terms “baby,” “kids,” “little,” “children” and “pediatric” in the product or brand name. We did not review product images, which are more subjective, and note that other poor-scoring sunscreens may include packaging that suggests use on babies and children.

Parents should know that the Food and Drug Administration does not set any criteria or additional requirements for sunscreen and body care products marketed to children. EWG has not identified any systematic differences between sunscreen products marketed to children compared to the general population.

Spray sunscreens

Nearly one in every three sunscreens in this year’s database is a spray. People like sprays because they’re easy to squirt on squirming kids and hard-to-reach areas. But they may pose inhalation risks, and they make it too easy to apply too little or miss a spot.

The FDA has expressed doubts about their safety and effectiveness but hasn’t banned them. As long as they’re legal and consumers are unaware of the inhalation risks, the apparent convenience of spray sunscreens will keep them on the market.

Sky-high SPFs

Eleven percent of the sunscreens we evaluated this year claim SPFs above 50+. SPF stands for sun protection factor, but that term refers only to protection against UVB rays that burn the skin. It has little to do with a product’s ability to protect skin from UVA rays, which penetrate deep into the body, accelerate skin aging, may suppress the immune system and may cause skin cancer.

The most worrisome thing about high-SPF products is that they give people a false sense of security and beguile them to stay in the sun too long. High-SPFs suppress the skin reddening and pain of sunburns, but they raise the risk of other kinds of skin damage. The FDA is considering barring SPF ratings above 50+.

Oxybenzone

Forty percent of the beach and sport sunscreens in this year’s guide contain oxybenzone, an active ingredient in sunscreens. It penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body. It can trigger allergic skin reactions. Some research studies, while not conclusive, have linked higher concentrations of oxybenzone to health disorders, including endometriosis in older women and lower birth weights in newborn girls.

Retinyl palmitate

Fourteen percent of the sunscreens, 15 percent of SPF-rated moisturizers and 6 percent of SPF-rated lip products in this year’s guide contain retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A. On sun-exposed skin, retinyl palmitate may speed development of skin tumors and lesions, according to government studies.

Why does the FDA allow this “inactive ingredient” in sunscreens intended for use in the sun? The agency has been studying the chemical for years but hasn’t made a decision. We have. The definitive study may not yet have been done, but based on available evidence – including the government’s studies – we think you’re better off avoiding sunscreens with retinyl palmitate. There are plenty of better choices.

 

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About the ratings

EWG provides information on sunscreen products from the published scientific literature, to supplement incomplete data available from companies and the government. The ratings indicate both efficacy and the relative level of concern posed by exposure to the ingredients in this product - not the product itself - compared to other sunscreens. The ratings reflect potential health hazards but do not account for the level of exposure or individual susceptibility, factors which determine actual health risks, if any. Methodology | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions

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