Are you pregnant and wondering whether it’s safe to use sunscreen?
You’re not the first woman to worry about whether the cream she’s slathering on her skin may affect her baby. While you certainly want to protect yourself from the sun, we know you also want to protect your baby from any potential harm, too.
So here’s what you need to know to do right by your baby. We’ve rounded up all the info on how sunscreens work, whether they affect your baby, and which ones offer the best and safest sun protection for your pregnancy-sensitive skin.
Quick ComparisonOur Top Pregnancy Sunscreen Picks of 2019 Read Full Reviews
Why Should I Use Sunscreen?
When you’re pregnant, your skin is even more susceptible to sun exposure, so it’s extra important to protect yourself (source). You don’t necessarily need a sunburn to cause skin damage or increase your cancer risk. Simply exposing your skin can be harmful, even if it doesn’t turn red.
Even if you don’t think you’re being exposed to the sun at all, you’re still exposing your skin to ultraviolet, or UV, rays. UV rays can penetrate cloud cover and reach your skin, even if it doesn’t seem particularly sunny out.
So using sunscreen while pregnant is the best way to protect your extra-sensitive skin from these harmful UV rays. But you need to choose a sunscreen that is labeled broad-spectrum because not all products are created equal.
Some only protect from one type of UV ray, but both cause damage in different ways. Sunscreen labeled broad-spectrum will protect you from both UVA and UVB rays (source):
- UVA rays: These harmful rays penetrate deep into your skin and cause damage, aging, and contribute to skin cancer.
- UVB rays: These rays cause sunburns and increase your risk of skin cancer.
How Does Sunscreen Work?
Sunscreen offers you protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays in one of two ways.
1. Chemical Sunscreens
Chemical sunscreens are what most of us have traditionally used for sun protection. They typically come packaged as lotions, creams, or sprays and contain a chemical that is rubbed into the skin that absorbs the sun’s UV rays. This chemical is then metabolized and eliminated, removing the dangerous UV radiation from your body.
Despite their effectiveness, there are some things to consider with chemical sunscreens:
- They must be applied about 30 minutes before sun exposure to be effective.
- They come in high levels of Sun Protection Factor, more commonly known as SPF, but that can be misleading as anything above SPF 30 does not provide much additional protection (source).
- Some people are wary about using sunscreen because they don’t want to introduce a foreign chemical into the skin. The ingredient of most concern is oxybenzone.
2. Mineral Sunscreens
These are considered barrier sunscreens as they create a physical barrier between your skin and the sun by using either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This barrier reflects the sun’s rays, preventing it from being absorbed into your skin at all. This type of sunscreen is popular among those who prefer natural or chemical-free options as they prevent chemicals from being absorbed into the body.
However, mineral sunscreens have some drawbacks:
- They may leave a white residue on the skin as they aren’t completely absorbed.
- They tend to be less effective if not reapplied frequently.
- They are thick.
Is It Safe While Pregnant?
Because of the dangers of sun exposure and your increased skin sensitivity when pregnant, sunscreen use is recommended when you’re expecting.
However, there is some concern that oxybenzone, the active ingredient in most chemical sunscreens, can enter the bloodstream and affect your baby (source).
So if you have a choice, you may want to opt for barrier or mineral sunscreens that do not contain oxybenzone.
Other Sun Protection While Pregnant
It’s important to remember that sunscreen in and of itself is not full protection from the sun. Especially since your skin is extra sensitive, you may want to take the following measures to protect your skin from the sun, even if you’re applying SPF 100+ sunscreen.
- Wear SPF protective clothing.
- Wear a hat when you’re out in the sun.
- Try to sit in the shade whenever possible.
- Choose a minimum SPF 30.
- Reapply your sunscreen, regardless of SPF, every two hours.
- Reapply your sunscreen every hour if you’re swimming or in the water.
- Stay out of the peak hours of the daylight hours.
What To Look for in Sunscreen
When choosing a sunscreen, look for the following:
- Broad spectrum: Broad spectrum sunscreens protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens that are not marked broad spectrum may only offer protection from one spectrum of ultraviolet light.
- Oxybenzone free: Check the ingredient list and avoid sunscreens that contain the active ingredient oxybenzone.
- SPF 30: Choose a sunscreen that is a minimum of SPF 30. These offer great protection from the sun. While higher numbers may provide a little more protection, remember that it’s not incremental and frequent reapplication is still necessary, especially when you’re in the water.
The Best Pregnancy Sunscreens of 2019
Here are five safe and effective sunscreens we think can help protect your skin during pregnancy.
1. Sun Bum Continuous Spray Sunscreen
Best Spray Sunscreen for Pregnancy
Sunscreen sprays are convenient to apply, but most of them are conventional sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, which is generally not recommended when you’re pregnant. If you use a sunscreen spray, remember that simply spraying it is usually not sufficient and you need to rub it into your skin to get adequate protection. And be extra cautious if you’re using it around babies -- they can easily inhale the particles into their lungs.
Is there really a non-mineral sunscreen that actually sprays well and doesn’t contain oxybenzone? Yes!
This Sun Bum formula offers broad spectrum protection at a level of SPF 50 and will not clog pores or cause an allergic reaction. It contains no oxybenzone, parabens, PABA, oils, or gluten. It is also made with vegan ingredients and is cruelty-free.
It is water resistant for up to 80 minutes and even contains Vitamin E to help moisturize the skin. This is particularly helpful for pregnant women because Vitamin E has been shown to help with stretch marks.
This sunscreen is easy to apply thanks to the spray design, and is effective at preventing sunburns.
Sun Bum’s sunscreens have also been tested and approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) for effectiveness.
- It is easy to apply.
- It contains no oxybenzone.
- It is water resistant.
- It is not a barrier sunscreen.
- You should be careful when using it around babies.
- The bottle does not last very long.
2. ThinkBaby Safe Sunscreen
Best Mineral Sunscreen for Pregnancy
Mineral sunscreens are a great option when you’re pregnant because they protect you by creating a physical barrier between your skin and the sun. Chemicals are not absorbed into your skin, so you can be sure you’re not introducing potentially harmful substances into your baby’s sensitive system.
You know that sunscreen formulated for babies is designed to be extra gentle and extra effective — so why wouldn’t you want to use it, too? This mineral sunscreen contains none of the harmful UV-absorbing chemicals, and the zinc oxide is non-nano, meaning the particles are not small enough to be absorbed into your skin.
It was rated a “1” by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), considered to be the authority on evaluating the chemical safety of various products. It contains no parabens, phthalates, or PABA which can irritate the skin and cause endocrine disruption.
It also offers broad-spectrum UV protection, and has the maximum SPF and water resistance permitted by the FDA.
This product is considered safe for use on sensitive skin, but they still recommend testing a small patch if you’re ultra-sensitive to ensure no adverse reactions, as no product can be 100 percent guaranteed not to cause a reaction in everyone.
- It does not contain harmful chemicals.
- It has a high rating by the EWG.
- It offers protection immediately — it does not need to soak in.
- It may separate in the container.
- It may leave a white residue.
- It needs to be reapplied frequently for maximum effectiveness.
3. SuperGoop! Skin Soothing Mineral Sunscreen
Best Physical Sunscreen for Pregnancy
A physical sunscreen provides a physical barrier between your skin and the sun, reflecting harmful UV rays, so they don’t cause skin damage. Most use zinc or titanium oxide as the active ingredient -- they are not absorbed into the skin so they will never reach your baby and you can feel good about using them.
This broad-spectrum barrier sunscreen provides SPF 40 protection from harmful UV rays. It is gentle enough to be used on your face, and even contains added ingredients that help to calm inflammation.
When you’re pregnant, you may experience increased inflammation and redness, so the olive oil polyphenols, along with the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can help to combat that redness.
This sunscreen is lightweight so it won’t feel heavy and greasy on your skin, and is hypoallergenic so it won’t cause a reaction if you have sensitive skin.
It helps to combat premature aging due to sun exposure, and though it’s not considered an organic sunscreen, you don’t need to worry about it since it’s not absorbed into your skin. You do need to be careful if you intend to swim, however, as it’s not labeled as water resistant.
- It offers broad-spectrum protection.
- It helps to calm redness and inflammation.
- It helps combat premature aging.
- It is an expensive option.
- It is not organic.
- It is not water resistant.
4. CeraVe SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion
Best Facial Sunscreen for Pregnancy
You may want a different sunscreen for your face than the rest of your body as it may be more sensitive and prone to breakouts. And since it’s never covered by clothing, you may want to use it every day to prevent sun damage and premature aging. Pick a sunscreen that’s easy on your sensitive facial skin and that’s hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic, so it won’t clog your pores.
This mineral sunscreen offers a barrier between your skin and the sun so you can avoid sunburn, sun damage, and premature aging. Its lightweight formula rubs completely into the skin without leaving the hallmark white residue that’s common amongst barrier sunscreens.
It offers broad spectrum protection to a level of SPF 50, and will work well as a daily sunscreen under your regular moisturizer or makeup. It can also stand up to excessive sweating or water play, as its water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
It also contains no oil so it won’t clog your pores when you put it on your face.
This sunscreen has a low toxicity rating by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) so you can feel good about putting it on your skin, and contains additional conditioners to nourish your skin.
Though it is pricier than other sunscreens, you get two in a pack for added value.
- It is a two-pack.
- It is water resistant.
- It contains no oil.
- It is expensive.
- The product may separate in the bottle.
- You will likely need a separate product for your body.
5. Burt’s Bees Nourishing Mineral Sunscreen
Best Natural Sunscreen for Pregnancy
You want the best for your baby, so it’s no wonder you want a natural sunscreen to avoid introducing harmful chemicals in your body. Just remember, not all natural sunscreens are created equal -- make sure you choose one that provides broad-spectrum protection for maximum UV blockage and does not contain oxybenzone.
Sometimes baby products are the best — and you don’t need to wait for baby to arrive to buy them. This barrier sunscreen from the trusted Burt’s Bees brand is made with 98.9 percent natural ingredients and is considered hypoallergenic. That means it doesn’t contain ingredients that are known to cause allergic reactions.
It is free of oxybenzone, parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum. It offers a sun protection factor of 30 and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes. It provides broad spectrum protection, so you are protected from both UVA and UVB rays.
This sunscreen has Vitamin E and coconut extract to help nourish and moisturize your skin. The Vitamin E, in particular, may even help with scarring from stretch marks.
This product has been known to leave a white residue on their skin, even when rubbed in.
- It is hypoallergenic.
- It is made of 98.9 percent natural ingredients.
- Skin conditioners may help with stretch marks.
- It is only SPF 30 — many sunscreens offer more protection.
- It is only water resistant for 40 minutes.
- It may leave a white residue.
The Bottom Line
Our top pick is Sun Bum Continuous Spray Sunscreen. Not only is it an easy-to-apply spray sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone, but it also offers a high level of broad-spectrum coverage and is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s even vegan-friendly and cruelty-free, and has been tested and recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Did you find you needed to switch sunscreens when pregnant? What brand did you love? Let us know down in the comments below!