The Environmental Working Group ranks zinc oxide and titanium dioxide mineral sunscreens as the safest options for their ability to block both UVB and UVA rays without potentially toxic chemical ingredients such as oxybenzone. The catch: Some mineral sunscreens have used nanoparticles—particles that have been manipulated to become tens of thousands of times smaller than a strand of hair—to improve consistency and UV-protective qualities.
Although the EWG maintains that these tiny particles are safe in lotions, consumers continue to voice concerns about the long-term effects and potential absorption of nanoparticles, especially in children, whose skin is more vulnerable to such ingredients.
As a result, more manufacturers such as Badger and California Baby are reformulating or introducing non-nano kids sunscreens. “We have gotten a lot of customer concerns and questions [about nanoparticles], and our stance as a company is to stay on the absolutely safe side by using ingredients that have no controversy,” says Rebecca Hamilton, director of product development for sun and skin care manufacturer WS Badger Co.