Are Spray Sunscreens Safe? Uncovering the Facts and Myths

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By David

In recent years, spray sunscreens have gained popularity due to their convenience and ease of application. They offer a quick and mess-free solution for sun protection, making them an attractive option for both adults and children. Despite these benefits, questions have arisen about the safety of spray sunscreens, specifically concerning their potential inhalation risks and environmental impact.

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Research indicates that the ingredients used in sunscreen are generally safe for topical application, but there are concerns regarding the potential inhalation of these ingredients in spray form. This has led to a call for further studies to understand the risks associated. It is advised to avoid spraying sunscreen near the nose and mouth and to apply it to the face by spraying it onto the hands first.

When considering the question “are spray sunscreens safe?”, it is essential to balance the potential risks with the importance of protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. While it may be preferable to use alternative forms of sunscreen, particularly for children, spray sunscreens are still an effective option for sun protection when used properly.

Understanding Spray Sunscreens

Ingredients and Effectiveness

Spray sunscreens contain the same active ingredients as traditional lotion sunscreens, making them theoretically as effective in protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. These active ingredients can range from mineral sunscreens which contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to chemical sunscreens that utilize a combination of various chemicals.

However, their overall effectiveness greatly depends on the application. For proper coverage, it’s essential to apply a consistent and even layer, which can be challenging with spray sunscreens. To ensure an adequate amount, spray the sunscreen onto the skin, then rub it in to guarantee full and even coverage.


  • Easy and quick to apply, especially on larger areas of the body
  • Can be less greasy and messy compared to lotion sunscreens
  • Convenient for reapplying, particularly when outdoors or participating in activities involving water or sweat


  • Application may not be as precise or even as lotion sunscreens, leading to potential missed spots
  • There is a chance of inhaling some of the ingredients during application
  • Can be flammable due to alcohol content, so avoid using near open flames

Pros and Cons of Spray Form

Pros Cons
Application Fast and easy Less precise and even coverage
Reapplication Convenient for outdoor activities Potential for missed spots
Formula Less greasy and messy Inhalation risk during application

In conclusion, spray sunscreens have their advantages and disadvantages; their effectiveness and safety largely rely on proper and cautious application. By taking the necessary precautions and ensuring thorough coverage, you can enjoy the benefits of spray sunscreens while maintaining your skin’s health and protection.

Health and Safety Concerns

Skin Irritation and Allergies

Spray sunscreens can sometimes cause skin irritation and allergies in sensitive individuals. Certain components, such as alcohol or fragrance, may contribute to these adverse reactions. To minimize the risk of skin irritation, look for sunscreens that are fragrance-free and hypoallergenic. When trying out a new spray sunscreen, it’s a good idea to perform a patch test on a small area of skin to check for any reactions before applying it all over.

Inhalation Risks

An important concern with spray sunscreens is the risk of inhaling their particles. When using aerosols, tiny particles can become airborne and be inhaled, which could lead to lung irritation, especially in those with respiratory issues. To minimize the risk, avoid spraying sunscreen directly onto your face, instead, spray it onto your hands and then apply it to your face. Additionally, try using the spray in a well-ventilated area and avoid inhaling the fumes.

Tips for Safer Spray Sunscreen Application
1. Spray in a well-ventilated area
2. Do not spray directly on your face
3. Keep away from the nose and mouth
4. Apply in short bursts instead of a continuous spray

Cancer Risks and FDA Guidelines

In recent years, there have been concerns over the potential cancer risks associated with certain spray sunscreen ingredients. Benzene, a known carcinogen, has been detected in some sunscreens. Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still investigating the safety and effectiveness of spray sunscreens. However, it’s important to note that these risks are not yet clearly established.

Despite these concerns, dermatologists widely agree on the importance of sun protection to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Make sure to choose sunscreens that follow the FDA guidelines and contain ingredients deemed safe and effective, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

In conclusion, while there are some health and safety concerns regarding spray sunscreens, appropriate use and careful selection of products can help to mitigate these risks. Always prioritize sun protection, and consult with a dermatologist if you have any concerns about a specific sunscreen product.

Best Practices for Using Spray Sunscreens

Application Techniques

Spray sunscreens offer convenience and ease of application, but using them effectively requires proper technique. To ensure even coverage, hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray until it glistens. Do not spray the sunscreen directly onto your face. Instead, spray it into your hands and then apply it to your face with caution, avoiding your eyes and mouth. After spraying, make sure to rub the sunscreen in thoroughly, as this helps to cover any missed spots and guarantees an even layer of protection.

Reapplication and Coverage

To achieve optimal sun protection, you should apply sunscreen generously, aiming for a full ounce of coverage on sun-exposed skin. Be sure to cover all areas, including often-neglected spots like the ears, neck, and top of feet. Reapplication is crucial for consistent protection. Reapply spray sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and more frequently if you are swimming or sweating, as even water-resistant sunscreens are not fully waterproof.

Pay special attention to the following guidelines for reapplication:

  • Reapply after toweling off
  • Reapply after 40-80 minutes of swimming or sweating
  • Reapply immediately after being in water

Choosing the Right Product

Selecting the appropriate spray sunscreen can make all the difference in your sun protection. Look for products that offer broad-spectrum coverage, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays. Aim for a minimum of SPF 30 to ensure adequate defense against sunburn and long-term skin damage. When choosing a water-resistant product, opt for one with the longest water-resistance duration available, either 40 or 80 minutes depending on the label.

When using spray sunscreen on your face, choose a product specifically formulated for facial use, as these are typically less likely to cause irritation. Most importantly, make sure to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application and usage.

By following these best practices for using spray sunscreens, you can enjoy the benefits of their convenience while still ensuring effective sun protection.

Environmental and Safety Regulations

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Impact on the Environment

Certain chemicals found in sunscreens are known to negatively impact the environment, particularly marine ecosystems and coral reefs. Chemical sunscreens, which absorb harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, often contain oxybenzone and octinoxate. These chemicals have been shown to contribute to the bleaching of coral reefs, which can lead to their destruction. In contrast, physical sunscreens, which use minerals like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide to physically block UV rays, are generally considered to be more environmentally friendly.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) provides an annual guide to sunscreens, which helps consumers make informed choices about the safety and environmental impact of the products they purchase. Their research has revealed that some sunscreens sold in the U.S. offer inadequate UVA protection, even when the labeled SPF suggests otherwise. This can lead to a false sense of security and overexposure to UVA rays.

Recalls and Consumer Advice

In response to safety concerns, strict regulations have been proposed to ensure the efficacy and safety of sunscreens. The FDA has advanced new regulations to scrutinize the safety and effectiveness of sunscreen products sold in the United States. One recent concern was the detection of benzene, a toxic chemical, in various sunscreen sprays, lotions, and gel-based products. Benzene has been classified as a carcinogen by multiple health organizations, and there is no safe level of exposure for humans.

Some manufacturers, such as Valisure, are recalling affected products in response to the benzene contamination. As a consumer, it is crucial to stay informed about the safety of sunscreen products. Regularly consulting resources like the FDA website and Consumer Reports can help consumers stay up-to-date with industry news, recalls, and advisories.

In order to minimize risks:

  • Choose physical sunscreens over chemical sunscreens, when possible.
  • Be cautious with spray sunscreen, as they are more likely to have higher benzene levels, and can be flammable near open flames.
  • Avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, which contribute to coral reef bleaching.
  • Consult the EWG’s Guide to Safer Sunscreens and other reliable sources for product recommendations.

By staying informed and making conscious choices, consumers can protect their skin from sun damage while also minimizing any potential negative impacts on the environment and their own health.