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April 14, 2006 7:20 PM   Subscribe

What's so special about baby skin?

I went out in search of sunscreen tonight and came home with this, which says it's specially formulated for babies but appealed to me because it's fragrance free. Aveeno has another sunscreen that's the same price and SPF, but not specially formulated for babies. The two products share three of their four or five active ingredients and the directions are basically the same. So, besides the addition of fragrance to the adult version, what's the difference?
posted by thirteenkiller to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
IANAD nor AIAB (I an not a doctor, nor am I a baby), but I do have sensitive skin and I use baby soap, sunscreen and shampoo because it's hypoallergenic. To be honest, SPF 45 is the minimum for me, but I am not a sun person to say the least.

I'll be following to see if somebody knows something I don't. What are the different ingredients? Knowing this would make it easier to answer your question.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:38 PM on April 14, 2006

Um, probably the fragrance. Baby skin is pretty sensitive and they smell pretty darned good on their own.
posted by fenriq at 7:40 PM on April 14, 2006

I don't remember off-hand, but I'll see if I can find ingredients lists online.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:40 PM on April 14, 2006

I know that you're supposed to avoid using things like fragrance, lanolin, or other possible irritants on babies' skin because allergies can develop. My uneducated guess would be that it's just a overall milder formula.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2006

Adult stuff: Avobenzone 3.0% , Homosalate 15.0% , Octisalate 5.0% , Octocrylene 2.4% , Oxybenzone 6.0%

Baby stuff: Octinoxate 6.0% , Octocrylene 5.0% , Oxybenzone 4.0% , Titanium Dioxide 3.2% , Zinc Oxide 2.2%

So I was a bit wrong; they only share one active ingredient.
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:44 PM on April 14, 2006

they aren't terribly different other than being generally PABA, fragrance, and *-free. you're better off with physical filters such as zinc or titanium, anyway, for UVA purposes.. since avobenzone and oxybenzone are not always photostable and the lovely FDA hasn't approved the various Mexoryls for use here.
posted by kcm at 7:44 PM on April 14, 2006

the formulations you listed are only the active ingredients and various combinations resembling both can be found in any sunscreen regardless of the audience. the baby stuff in this case is much better for sun protection since it has both physical filters you should be looking for and so protects against much more UVA for longer and more safely.
posted by kcm at 7:46 PM on April 14, 2006

So if baby sunscreen is milder, what is the advantage of the non-baby sunscreen, given that the two products have the same price and SPF?
posted by thirteenkiller at 7:48 PM on April 14, 2006

SPF is a fairly useless number, as it's misunderstood. the goal is to describe a sunscreen that transmits 1/X of UVB rays, so if you do the math, you realize that while 10 will let through twice as much as 20, they both block a majority of UVB. it says nothing about UVA, which is the one to be concerned with cancer-wise, and based on the formulations, it may or may not last as long or work as well. plus if you don't put on enough like so many people don't - it doesn't matter. :)
posted by kcm at 7:51 PM on April 14, 2006

(also, the FDA does not permit SPF labels over 30 any more, since there is no evidence it provides any more protection - partly based on what I wrote above.)

to answer your question, since I assume you didn't read what I wrote about physical filters, they do not break down in the sun or absorb into the skin like chemical filters. they sit on the skin and block/scatter rays, and generally do a much better job at long-lasting UVA protection. simple rule is that anything with zinc and/or titanium is the best to look for in the US, both is better, and there are some sub-formulations of each that provide enhanced protection but you're really nitpicking there.
posted by kcm at 7:54 PM on April 14, 2006

one more note - even if the individual active ingredients are similar, they do not necessarily perform the same. in the adult formulation you listed, the prescence of octocrylene stabilizes the avobenzone, but the octinoxate in the baby formula would negate that if it was also relying on the octocrylene to stabilize (not present) avobenzone. in the baby formula, the physical filters are the stable filters and take the place of this.

fun, huh.
posted by kcm at 8:04 PM on April 14, 2006

kcm: I did read what you wrote about physical filters, it's all really interesting. It sounds like the baby formula is clearly superior, so I'm wondering why Aveeno doesn't just market this product. They seem to be marketing an inferior product to adults.

Thanks for your answers, by the way! Are you a chemist?
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:14 PM on April 14, 2006

kcm-- you rock.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 8:18 PM on April 14, 2006

I'm Norwegian/Scottish descent and have two 4" scars on my back where there used to be moles. :)

That said, a little sun does a lot of good vitamin-D wise, much more than any supplement can provide through absorbtion. I'm scared to see "baby" sunblock, though, since it's thought that adolescence is responsible for the majority of non-familial melanoma through UV exposure (you get the vast majority of your sun exposure before 18 typically). There isn't a strong link between melanoma and adulthood sun exposure. Furthermore, since you didn't ask, sporadic sun exposure is thought to be more harmful than, say, a farm worker that spends every day outside .. part of this may be due to the thought that as mutations occur, the body usually learns to destroy them, so the more chance it has the more chance you have to recognize and destroy melanoma precursors. IANAD so I'm probably presenting a bit of this somewhat off.

Sunlight and UV exposure are said to marginally help fight prostate cancer. Pick. :)
posted by kcm at 8:23 PM on April 14, 2006

OK, I'm following my train of thought here even if it's a bit of a derail.. people seem to be interested. The specialists I've seen generally feel that most people will get enough UV exposure through windows, driving, etc. to not require sitting in the sun for 15-30 min/day. Can't discount the positive feelings sunlight can bring, though, so don't be scared to do so. :)

Most "sun = cancer" statements apply to squamous and basal cell types, which are fairly harmless as these things go wrt. melanoma, which I said above is not strongly linked to sun - at least when compared to SCC and BCC. UV does damage eyes, of course, so sunglasses are a great idea all the time.

A lot of the "increases" in skin cancer lately are said to be due to the advances in pathology, detection, screening programs, and research. Certainly we as a white people shouldn't be spending more time in the sun, but don't be scared that the ozone layer is melting and you'll die of one of the nastier cancers out there.

Bottom line? Mind your UVA, pick a sunscreen with physical filters, apply liberally, wear sunglasses, and use a good self-tanner if you want color. Just don't be scared to enjoy the frickin' outdoors.
posted by kcm at 8:30 PM on April 14, 2006

I'm really sorry for threadjacking here, just so many interesting things to me.

Another idea of late is that since UVA == cancer and UVB == skin damage/burns, and most sunscreens until recently only blocked UVB, the people staying out LONGER since they had UVB sunscreen on received more UVA even though they may not have burned. In this way, sunscreen was *bad* for you.

Read about UVA v. UVB.

And please go visit a dermatologist, preferably one specializing in cancers and screening vs. cosmetics, at least yearly.. especially if you've got white skin and a few-to-many moles. Skin checks are painless and quick and can seriously save your life. Trust me. :)
posted by kcm at 8:38 PM on April 14, 2006

Zinc oxide is used to treat diaper rash.
posted by leapingsheep at 1:29 AM on April 15, 2006

Another thought - the baby sunscreens we've used were much less likely to burn their eyes if it ran. The adult stuff was pretty bad as far as setting off eye irritation in the event that it got near them. I've never actually considered the efficacy of one over another, but rather the simple fact of their incredibly sensitive skin and eyes.
posted by docpops at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2006

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