Sunscreen Safety and Your Pregnancy

    The effects of UV rays on the skin are well documented. Skin cancer, premature aging, and sun spots are all linked to sun exposure and overexposure. Sunscreens are the best option to block UV rays from damaging the skin, but are sunscreen products safe for use during pregnancy?

    Sunscreen During PregnancySunscreens block UV rays by including one of three ingredients – oxybenzone, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide. Oxybenzone is the ingredient pregnant women want to avoid. In some research studies, oxybenzone has been linked to low birth weight in female infants. While these studies could not pinpoint oxybenzone as the sole reason for low birth weight, there is no reason to put your baby at risk if there is a viable alternative that is considered safe for use during pregnancy.

    The reason oxybenzone cannot be pinpointed as the cause of birth defects is due to its effect on the skin. This chemical is used to help other chemicals absorb through the skin. Unlike zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which lie on the surface of the skin, products with oxybenzone permeate the skin allowing chemicals to absorb into the bloodstream.

    In 2008, the Environmental Working Group found just shy of 600 sunscreens that contained oxybenzone including Hawaiian Tropic, Ocean Potion, Aveeno, and Blue Lizard. Some of the products considered unsafe were not sunscreens, but rather facial and body lotions marketed with SPF protection.

    Pregnant women should read labels for lotion, skin care products, lip balm, and lipstick. Surprisingly enough, the chemical can also be found in perfumes and hair conditioners. Oxybenzone has been linked to allergies, damage to cells, and disruption of hormones. A study performed by the CDC found traces of oxybenzone in 97% of participants. Women and young girls were found to have higher concentrations potentially due to use of skin care and beauty products.

    Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can be found in stores alongside sunscreens and products containing oxybenzone. These are considered safe during pregnancy. Before buying any skin care products, pregnant women should read all product labels.