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Whether you’re trying to get pregnant, noticing early signs of pregnancy, or are about to deliver next week, you probably already know the basics to avoid when you’re expecting, like alcohol and sushi. But, you might not have thought to double check the ingredients in your sunscreen. "The greatest misconception is that all sunscreens are safe in pregnancy," says Denis K. Dudley MD, ob-gyn and founder of The Sunscreen Company.
Meet Our Experts: Denis K. Dudley MD, ob-gyn and founder of The Sunscreen Company, Rhonda Klein, MD, and partner at Modern Dermatology, Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon in New York City, Sheila Farhang, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics
The reality is, while it's important to protect your skin from the sun at all times, certain chemical ingredients in your everyday sunscreen can potentially be harmful to your baby's development.
But there’s no need to worry—we laid out everything you might be wondering about pregnancy-safe SPFs, including some options from brands specifically formulated for moms and babies. Scroll down for 15 expert-approved pregnancy-safe sunscreens to consider.
What is the difference between chemical and mineral sunscreens?
Chemical sunscreens contain carbon-based compounds, such as oxybenzone, octinoxate, octisalate, and avobenzone. “These compounds create a chemical reaction and work by changing UV rays into heat, then releasing that heat from the skin,” says Rhonda Klein, MD, and partner at Modern Dermatology. The second type, physical blockers, (also known as mineral sunscreens) contain active mineral ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These sit on the surface of the skin and deflect and scatter damaging UVA rays away.
What sunscreens are best if you're pregnant?
If you're pregnant, your safest choice is a mineral sunscreen. Specifically, you'll want to look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide on the label. “Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are the only two sunscreen ingredients that currently meet the FDA criteria for being considered Generally Recognized as Safe and Effective (GRASE)," says Dr. Dudley. "They never enter through intact skin, have no adverse effects on humans or the environment, and arguably give better broad spectrum protection.”
What sunscreens should you avoid if you're pregnant?
If a pregnant woman uses a chemical sunscreen that contains oxybenzone, she runs the risk of it being absorbed into the bloodstream, which can impact the fetus. “Such ingredients can directly affect the health of the fetus, causing developmental problems and birth defects as well as low birth weights, coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and others,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, a dermatologic surgeon in New York City.
Should you avoid the sun if you're pregnant?
During pregnancy, it's best to limit your sun exposure and sunscreen use in general, to be extra cautious, says Sheila Farhang, MD, board certified dermatologist and founder of Avant Dermatology & Aesthetics. "There are other ways to sun protect such as UPF shirts, hats, and avoiding direct sun exposure between 10am and 2pm," Dr. Farhang adds.
What sunscreens are best for breastfeeding?
Even though you already gave birth, your sunscreen choice might not be in the clear if you breastfeed. Studies have found traces of oxybenzone in breast milk, which means your child is still at risk of being exposed to harmful chemicals that you could pass on during nursing. (Dr. Dudley also says to avoid oxybenzone if you're trying to conceive, just to be safe.)
Chelsea Burns is the Beauty Director for Women’s Health and has been writing in the beauty and wellness space for over six years with her work appearing in Real Simple, Health, Fitness, and Byrdie.com. She’s an expert at testing products and is always on the hunt for the best tinted moisturizer.
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