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Our daughter has pretty sensitive skin and has broken out with eczema once. We've tried Banana Boat and Blue Lizard and she's broken out from both.

What are sunscreen ingredients to avoid (or to look for) to find a sunscreen that works well with sensitive little ones?

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The main consideration with infant sunscreens are they should be Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide based only; not only will these be much less irritating1, but they are considered safer. Infants absorb a lot more through their skin than older children and adults, and so the Oxybenzone and other organic chemicals in many adult (and even some child) sunscreens are absorbed through the skin much more than they are in adults2.


About Oxybenzone:

Some groups3 consider oxybenzone dangerous as an enocrine disruptor and potential cancer risk (while not identical, this is the same general type of issue as with BPA). That is disputed by other groups, including many doctors, and needs additional testing and research; but for now, at least for us, we use zinc oxide only sunscreens as they're less bothersome for our skin and they're quite good, so we see no reason to take our chances. (We also use them liberally, and don't care if they're a bit greasy or make our skin white, the main concerns with Zinc Oxide based sunscreens.)

1The Mayo Clinic guide to baby sunscreens

2Medscape - How Does Infant Skin Differ From Adult Skin (Lio, 2011)

3The Environmental Working Group: The Trouble with Sunscreen

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  • I would note that I'm not terribly happy with my 3rd footnote there; While I'm all for what EWG agitates for, I don't consider them an unbiased source. I don't have the PubMed skills of some of the other folks here so would love to see a better link covering the risks of Oxybenzone et al if anybody has one. – Joe Jun 24 '15 at 15:12
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The best sunscreen is one that doesn't trigger her allergies. There's no "one size fits all" here -- for example, I'm allergic to a common ingredient (I don't know which one) in most "hypoallergenic" sunscreens.

What you should do is test sunscreens as you get them: spread a small amount on the inside of her wrist (one of the places where the skin is the thinnest and most sensitive) and check periodically for a rash. If none develops, you know that bottle of sunscreen is okay to use. You'll need to test each bottle, because manufacturers are free to change inactive ingredients without notice, and it's not always the active ones that trigger allergies.

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Our daughter was pretty sensitive, especially on her face, and we had great success with 7th Generation, available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Seventh-Generation-Baby-Sunscreen-Ounce/dp/B007FI5QT0 and I sporadically find it in stores as well.

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  • Another product recommendation: ThinkBaby sunscreen. – Ida Jun 26 '15 at 17:47
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If you can get your daughter to wear a nice wide brim hat and baby sunglasses, that would be preferable to using too much sunscreen. Obviously use it if you really need to, but often for regular outdoor activities a hat is enough.

If you're going to be out in the sun for a long time, like at the beach etc. use a good sun shade.

The best type of sunscreen to use, is a nice shady tree ;-)

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