Submitted via the FutureDerm.com Facebook page:
Is it dangerous to put sunscreen on an infant?
First off, I want to applaud you for actively wanting to protect your small child from the sun. Pediatric melanoma, while still rare, is alarmingly on the rise (SkinCancer.org).
Second, dermatologists overwhelmingly recommend sunscreen for babies, infants, and small children; however, you should follow these guidelines to be on the safe side:
1.) Use zinc oxide or titanium oxide, NOT chemical ingredients.
In general, as I’ve addressed many times before on this blog, natural ingredients are not necessarily better than synthetic ones.
However, when it comes to sunscreen and children, I only recommend non-micronized zinc or titanium oxide. Chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and oxybenzone have been shown to be absorbed into the body and later secreted in the urine (Lancet, 1997).
Based on animal studies, even though they are absorbed into the body, avobenzone and oxybenzone are non-toxic, which is why many companies still include them in “baby” sunscreens. However, it is still not recommended that sunscreens with avobenzone or oxybenzone be used on babies, infants, small children or by pregnant or nursing women. We simply have not studied the effects of the systemically-absorbed amount of avobenzone and oxybenzone on fetuses, babies, infants, or small children.
2.) Make sure your zinc and titanium oxide are non-micronized.
As adults, we love micronized zinc and titanium oxide because they are cosmetically appealing, without that telltale white glow mildly reminiscent of Casper the Friendly Ghost or the Addams Family.
But as far children are concerned, micronized zinc and titanium oxide could be an issue. Once sunscreen is applied, the body absorbs a very small amount (0.03%) of micronized zinc oxide (Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 2007). This amount is even smaller when barrier-creating ingredients like silicones and alumina.
Studies have shown micronized zinc and titanium to be largely safe for adults (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2009), despite the small amount of systemic absorption. Still, many experts caution that we don’t yet know the effects of this small amount of systemic absorption on children and infants. Dermatologists Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D., author of The Skin Type Solution, and Dr. Ellen Marmur, M.D., of Simple Skin Beauty, have both gone on the record to say they do not advise using micronized zinc and titanium oxide on children for now – just to be on the safe side. Since non-micronized zinc and titanium oxide have particles too small to penetrate the skin, it’s a good idea to be on the safe side and apply non-micronized zinc and titanium oxide if you are pregnant or nursing, or have a small child or infant.
3.) Try the following formulas.
If you’re looking for a quick cheat sheet (as many busy mothers are), here’s a list of dermatologist-approved non-micronized zinc and titanium oxide formulas:
- Blue Lizard Australian Sun Cream SPF 30+ ($17.49 for 3, Amazon.com). This cream drinks in well and is suitable for most skin types. One issue: It does contain parabens, which many mothers do not like.
- Vanicream SPF 60 ($14.95, Amazon.com). A superior formula suited for sensitive skin, and all those but oily skin types. Great for using for mommy as well! Absorbs well, cosmetically appealing. Paraben-free, for those of you who are looking for that.
- Loving Naturals SPF 30+($12.99, Amazon.com). This is an all-natural formula I would reserve solely for the children’s use: It’s very oil-ridden and not cosmetically appealing. (Look at it this way, they’ll hate the look of it now, but thank you when they’re skin cancer-free at 30).
While science has established that chemical sunscreens and micronized zinc/titanium oxide are safe for adults, studies have not yet proven these ingredients entirely safe for pregnant or nursing women, infants, or small children. As such, I would avoid these ingredients for now. I will keep you posted if information arises proving any of these are safe for pregnant or nursing women, infants, or small children in the future!
Founder and CEO Nicki Zevola started FutureDerm as a medical (M.D.) student studying to be a dermatologist. She is an award-winning scientific researcher and writer. She currently is concentrating on FutureDerm and developing FutureDerm's one-of-a-kind products. She can be found on Google+ and Twitter.View all Nicki Zevola posts.
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