Safe Sunscreens Explained

The sun is back. There’s no hiding anymore (hooray!). That means, of course, it’s time to navigate the confusing world of baby-safe sunscreens.

Firstly, let’s use some common sense. Exposing baby’s delicate skin to the sun without any protection is a bad idea.  You can check the UV index here, and if it’s over 3, it’s time to take sun safety steps. There is also a free app for iOS and Android, available in your app store called “UV Canada” or “UV US” that can help you track the UV rating while you’re on the go.

Unfortunately, sunscreens are not recommended for babies under 6 months. This is for a few reasons.

Babies have a higher skin surface area to weight ratio than adults, which puts them at higher risk of absorbing ingredients and experiencing side effects[1] (this is true for all skin products, not just sunscreens). Additionally, infant eyes are particularly sensitive to sun, so the general recommendation for babies under 6 months is to keep them covered and in the shade.


Beach + Summer Cover Ups


If sun exposure is unavoidable, talk to your pediatrician. (S)he may decide that the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the risks.

What’s a paraben?

Parabens are a family of chemicals commonly used as a preservative in skin care products. They are not the active, UV absorbing ingredient in sunscreens.  They are easily identified in an ingredient list as they all end in “paraben”. Parabens are very easily absorbed through the skin and can cause allergic reactions in a small proportion of people.

There is currently debate over whether parabens are safe for regular use, as they have been linked to breast cancer and have been acknowledged to mimic estrogen on a small scale. However, the analysis of a large number of studies failed to find a causal link between parabens and breast cancer. The research is ongoing as many of the studies involved were not specifically looking at parabens but rather products with numerous ingredients.

What’s in my sunscreen?

After researching this topic, we at Room for 2 believe that zinc oxide is the safest form of sunscreen currently on the market. Our sunscreens, Matter Substance (left) and Original Sprout (right) are non-nano zinc oxide based, with no other active ingredients. Non-nano means that the zinc oxide particles are too big to be absorbed into the skin. For us, this is key.


Chemically based active ingredients are absorbed into the skin, where they then absorb or filter out UV rays. Zinc oxide is a mineral based active ingredient and provides a physical barrier which reflects the UV rays. It is effective for UVA and UVB rays, making it an excellent broad-spectrum sunscreen. Many chemical based sunscreens require multiple active ingredients to cover the same spectrum .

For example, Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sunscreen contains Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, Octocrylene,  and Oxybenzone as active ingredients, with a handful of parabens as preservatives.

Zinc oxide sunscreens are by necessity, white. However, our brands, Matter and Original Sprout, disappear quickly and are both smooth and lotion-like, without the stickiness found in many other zinc oxide based sunscreens.

The Environmental Working Group has an excellent chart here with currently FDA approved active ingredients[2] and their relative toxicity concerns. For a complete Canadian list, see here[3].

While we do prefer barrier sunscreens to chemical sunscreens, let’s be clear. ANY sunscreen is better than NO sunscreen. Ingredients like parabens MAY cause health issues, but we know with 100% certainty that sunburns and sun exposure cause skin cancer.

What does SPF Really Mean?

The Sun Protection Factor is a theoretical multiplication factor for safe sun exposure. If you can stay in the sun for 10 minutes before burning, an SPF of 10 would multiply your natural 10 minutes by 10, giving you 100 minutes of exposure time before burning.

However, this relationship breaks down between 25 and 30 SPF, as 30 SPF is blocking 97% of UVB rays, while another 20 SPF points only increases protection by 1%. For all but the fairest of folks, that extra 1% of UVB protection is insignificant[4].

11 factor ANG

It’s also important to keep in mind that reapplication is necessary to maintain maximum protection. You may have calculated that you get 300 minutes in the sun, but with clothing, sweating and moving, you should expect that you’ve lost some of your protection within 2 hours.  Reapply after swimming, sweating or lots of activity, or every 2 hours; whichever comes first.

Our Sunscreens

Matter Substance SPF 30


Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 20%

Inactive Ingredients: helianthus annus* (sunflower seed oil), calendula officinalis* (pot marigold) flower, hypericum perforatum* (St. John’s Wort) flowers, simmondsia chinensis* (jojoba) seed oil, sesamum indicum* (sesame)seed oil, camellia oleifera* (green tea) extract, vitis vinifera* (grape) seed extract, glycerine (vegtable), butyrospermum parkii * (shea butter), tocopherol (vitamin E), xanthan gum, leuconostoc (radish root ferment filtrate), deionized water, essential oils of lavandula angustifolia (lavender), citrus aurantium dulcis (orange), pelargonium graveolens (geranium), cymbopogon martini (palmarosa) and menthe (mint).  *Certified organic


Original Sprout SPF 27


Active Ingredients Purpose: Zinc Oxide 10%

Inactive Ingredients: Aqua (Water), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Glucoside, Cetearyl Alcohol, Vegetable Glycerin, Polyglyceryl-10 Laurate, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Fruit Extracts of Pyrus Malus (Apple), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot), (Vanilla) Planifolia, Dipteryx Odorata Seed, Ananas Sativus (Pineapple), Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry), Organic (Basil) Ocimum Basilcum, Organic (Rosemary) Rosmarinus Officinalis, Lonicera Caprifolium & Lonicera Japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle), Extracts of Organic Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Organic (Arnica) Montana Flower, Organic Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit, Organic (Calendula) Officinalis Flower, Organic Vaccinium Macrocarpon (Cranberry) Fruit, Polysilicone-15, Stearyl Dimethicone, Glyceryl Isostearate, Polyhydroxy Stearic Acid, Sodium Phytate, Xanthan Gum



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