I'm on a trip with my kids. We remembered to pack all the stuff for the beach, except the sunscreen. I usually buy sunscreen for my kids at Whole Foods, because I'm picky about ingredients. Since we aren't near a Whole Foods, I was stuck buying sunscreen at the nearby Target. My goal was to find a sunscreen that met the following 2 criteria:
1. Sunscreen protection from minerals instead of chemicals
Most sunscreens contain chemical sunscreens that mimic estrogen and are considered to be potential hormone disruptors. I stick to mineral sunscreens (titanium oxide and zinc oxide) which provide a physical barrier. Some people dislike that they can leave a white layer and make you look "ghostly."
2. No other ingredients that I immediately recognize as yucky
I wanted to avoid fragrance (which contains secret ingredients) and parabens, for example. This was really a split-second decision, because I didn't have time to do a bunch of research.
And guess what? I found 2 sunscreens that fit the bill:
Johnson & Johnson Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 40
And I found them right there in Target! Note that I found them in the infant section, not the sunscreen section. They also had a place for California Baby (a more "natural" line of personal products) brand sunscreen, which is sold in Whole Foods and which I have seen on lists of safe sunscreens for kids, but they were all out at the time. The sunscreens I bought are not super cheap, by the way. But I am willing to spend a bit more on personal products because I care about ingredients. Also, we don't use that many personal products. Now that I'm here writing this post, I am pleased to see that the J&J Baby Sunscreen is actually one of the recommended sunscreens.
Even though I live in a sunny climate, I don't slather sunscreen on my kids all the time. I prefer to cover up with clothing and hats for time at the park. A little sun might be good for us after all. But when you spend all day at the beach, you really need to use sunscreen. Even if you are sitting under an umbrella in the shade because of all the reflection (I know all of you already knew that, but I recently found this out the hard way).
For those interested in even more information, here are some great resources on sunscreen from Environmental Working Group:
Find your sunscreen -- so you can see EWG's evaluation of your favorite sunscreen's UVA protection, UVB protection, and potential health concerns. Here is the information for the Johnson & Johnson Baby Sunscreen I bought, for example.
EWG's Shopper's Guide to Safer Sunscreens -- a pdf with lots of handy info