All sunscreens are not created equal. Here is how to choose the best brand for your child.

By Nancy Ripton, co-founder of

Even if you buy a sunscreen specially labeled for children, it may not provide the protection you expect. You need to do your homework to make sure your child gets the sun protection they need.

To help you make your decision, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) tested almost 2,000 sunscreens for effectiveness and safety. The results?

Two of five brand-name sunscreens either failed to protect skin from sun damage and/or contained hazardous chemicals.

The biggest problem was lack of UVB protection. Most sunscreens fare well when it comes to blocking UVB rays – the most superficially penetrating rays, responsible for giving us a suntan (or burn). UVB rays also contribute to skin cancer and aging.

UVB protection is measured by Sun Protection Factor (SPF). "If you have a sunscreen with an SPF15, you can stay out in the sun for 15 times longer than you could without that sunscreen and not get a sun burn," says Dr. Paul Cohen, a Toronto-based dermatologist.

But SPF doesn't protect your or your kids from UVA rays.

"UVA rays penetrate deeper than UVB," says Dr. Cohen. Although they don't physically tan or burn your skin, they are the primary rays responsible for premature aging and skin cancer.

"There are only four approved ingredients known to block UVA rays," says Sean Gray, a senior analyst with the EWG. These include: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, and mexoryl. The bad news is avobenzone and mexoryl are highly unstable and break down quickly in sunlight.

Want to find out more?

Visit for the full scoop on choosing a safe sunscreen for your child.




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