- retinyl palmate (vitamin A) (1)(2)
- parabens such as methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, or benzylparaben which are used as preservatives in many products. (3) Parabens are of most concern when used in products which remain on your skin such as lotions and sunscreens.
- nano scale minerals (4).
The ONLY "active ingredients" should be:
ZINC OXIDE (sunscreen grade > 100nm) or non-nano particles. The reason that you want the zinc to be greater than 100 nm, is that nano scale minerals are thought to be unsafe by some consumer safety groups.
And, Green Living Q&A has a great thread about sunscreens which mentions that many sunscreens, even those marketed to babies like California Baby contain questionable ingredients.
The best way to avoid nano scale minerals is to look on the label. Having nano scale minerals does make sunscreen easier to spread and absorb so you don't look like you are covered in white cream, but this same ability to be absorbed also means that these minerals can be absorbed into organs and tissues making their safety profile uncertain at this time. (5) If you have purchased nano products already, you can use them up, but I wouldn't seen out or continue to buy products using this technology until we know more about them.
thedailygreen.com has a great list of 23 natural sunscreens.
But I would caution parents to look carefully at the ingredient list to make sure if they buy California Baby brand they don't have nano scale ingredients in them, when possible.
Oxford Journal of Toxicological Sciences says:
"nanomaterial safety data are limited. Until such time as the exposures, hazards, and environmental life cycle of nanomaterials have been more clearly defined, cautious development and implementation of nanotechnology is the most prudent course." (4)
Scientific American also has an article about how nano particles are bad for the environment.