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Is it Safe to Wear Sunscreen While Pregnant? The Complete Guide to Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen

by People4Ocean Sun Care |

If you're expecting, you know that your body is about to undergo some serious changes. Beyond the obvious, there are a few things to know about your typical skincare routine that might need to change. 

Here we'll talk about the risks of using chemical-based sunscreens while pregnant and why it is recommended to use pregnancy-safe sunscreen to protect your skin. Let's dive in! 

Is Sunscreen Safe During Pregnancy?

The short answer is, yes! You should absolutely be wearing sunscreen throughout your pregnancy. Although your baby isn't in the direct path of harmful UV rays, any harm to the mom's skin could affect the baby. 

There's a catch though, you have to wear sunscreen that's safe for your and thus for your baby: meaning no chemicals. It is easier than you think to find pregnancy-safe, and kid-friendly sunscreens with healthy ingredients. And as it turns out, most pregnancy-safe sunscreens are also safer for the environment and in some cases reef-safe.

Sunscreen Ingredients 

During pregnancy, a woman's skin changes and can respond differently to certain ingredients. Also, because your baby relies on your whole body to be a chemical-free and safe nest for nine months, it's important that you treat anything you put on your skin as you would the food you eat. 

In particular, oxybenzone is a controversial sunscreen ingredient. While it is very commonly used, it's a known endocrine disruptor, which is harmful especially for pregnant women. 

A 2018 study [1] showed that the use of Oxybenzone products during pregnancy caused severe damage to the mammary glands, which we know are of utmost importance to the health of your baby once they're born. This intense effect on lactation could be harmful even as the mother is past the pregnancy and breastfeeding stage.

Further studies have shown that Oxybenzone can contaminate semen [2], placenta and breast milk of marine mammals and humans [3, 4] and is even linked to Hirschsprung’s disease, a development abnormality in humans in cases of prenatal exposure to Oxybenzone [5]. That explains why it is not recommended to use Oxybenzone-based products during pregnancy, breast-feeding, or on children under the age of 2. 

For this reason, it's best to source sunscreens that you know are safe to have around your baby. If you wouldn't put it directly on your baby's skin, don't put it on yours either. 

 

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen

Your skin might change and become more sensitive with pregnancy, so wearing SPF is still very important to prevent the collateral damages of sun exposure throughout pregnancy. One particular condition during pregnancy called melasma might actually be avoided by wearing pregnancy-safe face sunscreen. 

Ingredients To Look For 

To stay on the safe side, use mineral/ physical sunscreens. The most popular ingredient you'll see in mineral sunscreen is zinc oxide, which might sound scary but it's actually much safer than chemical sunscreens. 

Zinc oxide is the only Food & Drug Administration and Therapeutic Goods Administration approved broad-spectrum sunscreen ingredient. It's also the number one choice for the Environmental Working Group, a non-for-profit which uses strict standards to evaluate the toxicity and carcinogenic properties of thousands of chemicals used in common products. 

While titanium dioxide mineral sunscreens might seem safe, look for zinc oxide. This is the best UV-blockers - above all other sunscreen ingredients - to use for a safe pregnancy. It is also the only UV-blocker that is broad-spectrum on its own.

Certifications & Labels 

A zinc oxide sunscreen will provide you with broad-spectrum protection, which is recommended whether you are pregnant or just looking for a good sunscreen. This will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Here's a quick breakdown of each: 

  • UVA: Responsible for aging the skin
  • UVB: Responsible for burning the skin and for causing most skin cancers. 

You may see sunscreen labeled as vegan. This simply means that it doesn't contain animal by-products. That doesn't necessarily mean it's cruelty-free

Reef safe sunscreen is another label, which can be important if you want to be sure that your sunscreen doesn't harm aquatic environments. Even if you don't wear your sunscreen snorkelling, the ingredients of the sunscreen on your skin go down the drain and into marine ecosystems. 

To be completely reef safe, sunscreen should only include zinc oxide as the active ingredient, and must be free of chemicals (such as parabens) that should also be avoided while pregnant. 

What's SPF? 

Your sunscreen is only as effective as the SPF you choose. Dermatologists recommend the daily wear of a physical SPF30 sunscreen or higher. Above SPF 50 there isn't much difference in how much UV rays are blocked, so anything between 30 and 50 is perfect. 

SPF (Sun Protection Factor) determines how long it takes for your skin to burn. For example, if you are wearing SPF30, it would take your skin 30 times as long to burn than if you weren't wearing any sunscreen. 

Pregnancy Safe Sunscreen List 

Now that you know what to look for on the bottles, we'll go through a few products that are all safe for pregnancy! 

Our travel-size, easy to use SPF50 vegan sunscreen is perfect for moms on the go. It is all natural and contains reef-safe zinc oxide as the only active ingredient, so it is safe for you, your baby and the planet it will be born in. It's also water-resistant for up to three hours, so you don't need to worry about playing sports, sweating, or going for a swim. Apply it frequently and liberally to keep you and your baby safe in the sun. 

To amp up your new mom glow, use this nourishing and protective 30 SPF sunscreen for the face and body. Not only will you be protected against the sun's harsh rays but you'll be glowing! 

Don't forget the lips! We often forget to put sunscreen on our lips and it can easily come off by drinking or eating by the pool. Apply your 100% natural SPF every single day to ward off any unwelcome burns or damage.

 

Safety in the Sun 

Staying in the shade, wearing a broad-brim hat, and sunglasses should all be precautions you use in addition to sunscreen. Forming sunscreen habits during your pregnancy will ensure that your skin, body, and baby all stay healthy. 

Once junior is born, keep applying your SPF! Especially to baby (avoiding direct sun exposure under 12 month old). Most sunscreen that's safe for expecting mothers is also safe for baby, but double-check labels just to be sure.

As always, make sure you're using a mineral-based sunscreen and reapplying every two hours or after swimming. 

Choosing brands that make all of their sunscreen pregnancy safe sunscreen will ensure that you're keeping your body healthy. After all, if you wouldn't put it on your baby, don't put it on yourself! 

 

References:

  1. Charlotte D LaPlante, Ruby Bansal, Karen A Dunphy, D Joseph Jerry, Laura N Vandenberg, Oxybenzone Alters Mammary Gland Morphology in Mice Exposed During Pregnancy and Lactation, Journal of the Endocrine Society, Volume 2, Issue 8, August 2018, Pages 903–921, 
  2. Zhang, T., et al., Benzophenone-type UV filters in urine and blood from children, adults, and pregnant women in China: partitioning between blood and urine as well as maternal and fetal cord blood. Science of the Total Environment, 2013. 461: p. 49-55.
  3. Rodríguez-Gómez, R., et al., Determination of benzophenone-UV filters in human milk samples using ultrasound-assisted extraction and clean-up with dispersive sorbents followed by UHPLC–MS/MS analysis. Talanta, 2015. 134: p. 657-664.
  4. Hines, E.P., et al., Concentrations of environmental phenols and parabens in milk, urine and serum of lactating North Carolina women. Reproductive Toxicology, 2015. 54: p. 120-128.
  5. Huo, W., et al., The relationship between prenatal exposure to BP-3 and Hirschsprung's disease. Chemosphere, 2016. 144: p. 1091-1097.

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