Safe Ways to Get Some Rays: 10 of the Highest-rated Sunscreens on the Market

sunscreens sunscreens It's well-established that if you're going to be out in the sun, the best way to protect yourself and your children from harmful ultraviolet radiation (in combination with limiting the time of your exposure and covering up with a long-sleeve shirt, hat and sunglasses) is to continuously apply sunscreen.

When you apply a product with SPF (Sun Protection Factor), you're protecting the skin from UVB rays, the shorter of the UV waves that can give you a sunburn. But what about UVA protection? This is where protection gets dicey. While many sunscreens are labeled "broad spectrum," which leads you to believe you're getting total coverage, the actual UVA protection may be inadequate. UVA, comprised of UVA1 and UVA2 rays, can cause skin damage, aging and cancer - with no signs whatsoever. Equally as concerning, it is believed that some ingredients commonly found in chemical sunscreens (such as oxybenzone, found in 80 percent of chemical sunscreens) break down when exposed to sunlight, penetrate the skin, and can cause allergies and hormone disruption, as well as skin damage. This is particularly troubling to me as a parent. Children are not only the most vulnerable to sun damage but to the harmful effects of chemical exposure from sunscreens.

The simple fact is, not all sunscreens are created equal. Some of the most aggressively marketed and available sunscreen brands do not provide adequate protection against both UVA and UVB and/or may contain harmful chemicals. It's important to be aware that the words "children" and "kids" placed on sunscreen labels may just be a marketing gimmick. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has shockingly low standards of regulation for sunscreen makers, although starting this summer, they've mandated that sunscreen packaging be straightforward about exactly what's inside (with the percentage of active ingredients listed on the package) and how much sun protection is provided.

The Environment Working Group, a non-profit organization that specializes in research and advocacy in the area of toxic chemicals, recommends you avoid chemical sunscreens in favor of mineral ones that contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, especially for children and those with sensitive skin. Non-mineral options, they warn, are more likely to contain potential hormone disruptors and less likely to protect sufficiently against harmful UVA rays. They also discourage the use of sprays and powders, to avoid inhalation dangers.

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Choosing an effective sunscreen may seem overwhelming, but there are a lot of fantastic online resources to guide you toward a healthy sun safety plan.The Skin Cancer Foundation has a great list of prevention tips Alpha Mom breaks down the science behind sunscreen and why certain sunscreen choices are better than others, and the Environmental Working Group's 2013 Guide to Sunscreens is a database of over 1,700 sunscreens, lip balm, moisturizers, and makeup to help you research, compare, and contrast options. There's also an iPhone App to keep handy while shopping.

To make your research even easier, we've rounded up EWG's highest rated/least toxic sunscreens and cross-referenced them with Alpha Mom's mom-tested 2012 recommendations, Amazon reviews, and my personal favorites, for a complete list of safe sunscreens to shop from. All of these sunscreens have at least an SPF of 30 and both UVA and UVB protection. In general, these formulas are more expensive than chemical ones and take more effort to rub in, but we think it's time and money well-spent!

Here are 10 of our top suncreens:
1) Aubrey Organics Natural Sunscreen (Sensitive Skin/Children or Green Tea SPF 30+) - $12.20
Offering all the protection of an SPF-30 sunscreen without the scent, this product is for children or adults with sensitive skin. A gentle-but-hardworking formula keeps harmful rays at bay and maintains the skin's moisture balance with plant butters and herbal skin conditioners.

2) Ave Anderson Non-Toxic (SPF 30+) - $18.95
This sunscreen gives you broad-spectrum coverage for every age, with organic botanical ingredients. Plus, it's completely non-toxic: no nanoparticles; no chemical UV absorbers; no parabens; no phthalates; and no synthetic preservatives, fragrances, or dyes.

3) Babo Botanicals Clear Zinc Sunscreen (SPF 30) - $21.95
A non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen (which means it won't absorb into the blood stream) that's all-natural and hypo-allergenic, with a host of certified-organic ingredients like green tea extract, rose hip oil, jojoba seed oil, and shea butter.

4) Badger Natural & Organic Suncreens (SPF 30-35) - $ 14.49
Badger is one of the more accessible brands on the list. It's made of safe, USDA Certified Organic ingredients, with zinc oxide as the only active ingredient (also used to treat diaper rash). Natural and organic plant oils provide ultra-moisturizing nourishment, it's rich in vitamins, and antioxidants protect skin from the sun. I use the kids version on my son, and while it's hard to rub in, it's effective. A non-nano zinc oxide sunscreen (which means it won't absorb into the blood stream) that's all-natural and hypo-allergenic, with a host of certified-organic ingredients like green tea extract, rose hip oil, jojoba seed oil, and shea butter.

5) Beauty Without Cruelty Broad Spectrum Sunscreen (SPF 30) - $11.95
This quick-absorbing sunscreen is 100% vegan-vegetarian, which makes it cruelty-free and effective!

6) Burnout (Kids Physical and Ocean Tested Physical, SPF 30) - $17.99
Highly rated by Amazon users, BurnOut offers UVA/UVB broad-spectrum protection, is water-resistant, and will not run into eyes. It's also chemical-free, hypoallergenic, non-greasy, and won't clog pores, which makes it good for sensitive skin. It's rich in antioxidants, and enriched with papaya, plankton, and plantain extracts to protect and nourish.

7) Climb On! Mineral Sunscreen (SPF 30) - $15.18 Climb On! is another sunscreen that comes highly rated by users. One ingredient, red raspberry seed oil, is known to contain a high level of essential fatty acids, which research shows are connected with reduced stress in the body. It also exhibits anti-inflammatory properties and acts as a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB shield.

8) COOLA Suncare Baby Moisturizer Mineral Sunscreen, Unscented (SPF 30) - $36 for 3
Designed especially for baby's delicate skin, this mineral SPF 50 with broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection contains absolutely no chemicals or preservatives. Organic shea butter, sesame seed, and avocado oils keep baby soft as…well, a baby's bottom.

9) Coral Safe Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, (SPF 50) - $19.95
You can only get this sunscreen online, but it's 100% natural and water-resistant. It also includes green tea, a powerful antioxidant.

10) ECO Logical Skin Care Baby All Natural Sunscreen (SPF 30+) - $17.49
This pick is a favorite of Musings of a Housewife (who takes sunscreen very seriously and says it goes on smoothly!). It's powerful in UV protection yet gentle enough for the tender skin of infants, thanks to ingredients like shea butter, and jojoba, avocado, and carrot oils.

- By Jill Seiman

For 18 more of the highest-rated sunscreens on the market, visit Babble!, visit Babble!

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