Is pregnancy-safe sunscreen on your shopping list these days? You likely already know that being pregnant means you shouldn’t use some of your old tried and true (now not super pregnancy-friendly) skincare products (like anything with retinoids). It even means you have to be more careful about the shampoo you use while pregnant. But did you know that you might also have to swap out your favorite sunscreen for a pregnancy-safe sunscreen? While this is ultimately a personal choice, there are certain ingredients commonly found in popular sunscreens that could potentially be harmful to pregnant women and their unborn fetuses. If you’re interested in making the switch, mineral-based sunscreens are your best bet, since they sit on top of the skin, rather than absorbing into the skin like a chemical sunscreen.
Which sunscreen ingredients should pregnant women avoid?
The ingredient you want to avoid the most is oxybenzone. Practicing clinical and aesthetic dermatologist Dr. Harshal Ranglani, MD, tells Scary Mommy, “Oxybenzone has shown to be an endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC). It is also called benzophenone-3 or BP3. In various studies done on pregnant mice, it was shown to affect the growth and development of the breast tissue. Oxybenzone has been shown to get absorbed into the bloodstream and transferred to the fetus via the placenta, potentially causing harmful effects on fetal growth and development.” Many dermatologists also recommend against the use of octinoxate, which may also affect the endocrine system.
Cosmetic Dermatology expert Dr. Kenneth Mark told Scary Mommy that pregnant women should avoid PABA (para aminobenzoic acid, phthalate, and avobenzone, saying, “these chemicals have been suggested to affect the endocrine system and could be potentially harmful.”
What should you look for in a pregnancy-safe sunscreen?
Always look for a mineral sunscreen rather than a chemical sunscreen. Dr. Ranglani recommends titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the safest ingredients for pregnant women. He explains, “These are inert and they sit on the skin. They have the added advantage of broad-spectrum protection against UVA, UVB as well as visible light.”
Still feeling confused? We spoke to several dermatologists to get a list of the best mineral options for pregnancy-safe sunscreens. Here’s a look at their favorites.
Best Pregnancy Safe Sunscreens
This CeraVe option not only offers broad spectrum protection, but it is also made with three essential ceramides to lock in moisture, keeping your skin from getting too dry. It’s made with both zinc and titanium oxide, and is allergy-tested and noncomedogenic for sensitive skin. Dr. Ranglani recommends this one and calls it a favorite, saying, “unlike other physical sunscreens, it doesn’t leave too much of a white cast while also being hydrating at the same time.” Jill Canes, NP, founder of Face Forward Medical Aesthetics, notes, “It also contains hyaluronic acid to moisturize skin, as many pregnant women may experience dry skin in certain parts of their pregnancy.”
Made with 100% zinc oxide, this broad spectrum sunscreen is also water-resistant. It’s made with a Dry Touch technology that gives it a sheer, non-greasy finish. Dr. Ranglani says this is “a purely physical sunscreen,” adding, “It contains 21.6% zinc oxide and gives a light and matte feel.” This is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t love the sometimes heavy feel of titanium oxide.
EltaMD sunscreens, especially this one, were a favorite among the dermatologists we spoke to. It doubles as light coverage makeup and a safe sunscreen. Dr. Zain Husain, MD, FAAD, founder of New Jersey Dermatology and Aesthetics Center, says he recommends this one specifically for pregnancy because “it is a physical sunscreen and uses zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to reflect UV rays. It’s also great for sensitive skin because it’s free from dyes and fragrances while being tinted for light coverage.”
This Badger sunscreen only contains five ingredients: clear zinc oxide, organic sunflower oil, organic beeswax, organic jojoba oil, and sunflower vitamin E. Because it contains clear zinc and not white zinc, it doesn’t leave behind a white cast and it is naturally water and sweat resistant for at least 80 minutes. “For pregnant women looking for all-natural alternatives, this sunscreen is 98% organic and uses plant-based ingredients,” Canes says. “It is also hypoallergenic and does not contain irritating ingredients.”
This Avene sunscreen is tinted and made to soothe and calm sensitive skin. While it offers a 100% mineral filter to protect against the sun’s rays, it is still lightweight and it absorbs quickly. Cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green recommends it, saying, “This sunscreen is formulated with powerful and soothing ingredients like niacinamide and squalane that hydrate, soften, and protect the skin while improving overall skin tone. This sunscreen is noncomedogenic, defends against UVA and UVB rays, and is safe to use on even the most sensitive skin.”
This La Roche-Posay option was another favorite among the dermatologists we spoke to for its protection against the sun and its lightweight feel. Dr. Ranglani noted that “it contains antioxidants in addition to the physical filters so it provides additional protection, especially against common pregnancy concerns that cause pigmentation (such as melasma).” And Susan Bard, MD, loves that it’s tinted, which “also helps prevent the white chalky appearance of post mineral based sunscreens.”
This ISDIN sunscreen not only offers high broad spectrum protection using zinc oxide, it also addresses previous sun damage on the skin and can support collagen production to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Dermatologist Peterson Pierre, MD, of Pierre Skincare Institute, describes the sunscreen as “cosmetically elegant, rubs right in without leaving a sticky, greasy, or white residue, and provides superior sun protection.”
This Bare Republic sunscreen offers plenty of protection with the use of zinc oxide. It’s also made with antioxidant hydrators, like grape, raspberry, and carrot seed oils. The natural vanilla coconut scent smells great as well. Noreen Galaria, MD FAAD, CEO and founder of Inner Glow Vitamins, Galaria Plastic Surgery & Dermatology, says, “I love that this line offers a mineral spray not just creams.” And, let’s face it: when you’re very pregnant, a convenient spray is going to be much more comfortable to apply than a lotion.
Another incredibly easy way to apply sunscreen daily is with this Colorscience Sunforgettable brush. It can go on under or over makeup, and is incredibly easy to reapply throughout the day. Dr. Bard recommends this one, saying, “One the main reasons people don’t reapply their sunscreen throughout the day is because it’s inconvenient. This is especially true for women who don’t want to ruin their makeup.” It offers all mineral protection and is water and sweat resistant for 90 minutes.
This Neova sunscreen is great for pregnant moms who are already doing a lot of running around after their kids, and need something that can stand up to the sweat. It’s oil-free and fragrance-free, and is lightweight and easily absorbs. Dr. Mark recommends it, saying, “Neova is my favorite sunscreen brand because its main ingredient is Zinc Oxide and it has DNA repair enzymes. It’s a great formula that does not cause breakouts, which of course can be an issue in pregnancy.”
Galaria recommends Supergoop! SheerScreen because it offers 100% mineral protection and is incredibly sheer and lightweight. Aside from being a great daily sunscreen, it has other benefits as well. Bush clover extract protects the skin from free radicals and oxidative stress from blue light, aloe leaf juice is moisturizing and smoothing, and squalene eliminates the typically greasy feeling most sunscreens have.
This zinc-based mineral sunscreen is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate and is vegan and reef-friendly. Galaria recommends it as a potentially good sunscreen for babies over 6-months-old as well. While this one does have a bit of a white cast, it works well and doesn’t feel heavy.