But Lee acknowledged that some people just really want to use spray sunscreen, and she has some advice for them. “The only times when I really talk about spray sunscreens is if people are really excited and adamant about the convenience,” she said. “I tell them to put on a good even base layer of cream or lotion sunscreen, and then use spray to reapply.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the only way to get proper coverage when using a spray sunscreen is to spray your skin until it looks very wet, then rub the product in with your hands.
People have a lot of complaints about sunscreen: “It’s greasy. It’s stings my eyes. It stains my clothes. It smells weird. ” Does spray sunscreen truly solve any of these problems?
Consumer Reports, which tests popular sunscreens every year, recommends against using spray sunscreen on children due to the risk of inhalation.
And that’s even more common for the spray-on variety. “Do I prefer sunscreen spray over nothing? Yes, I do,” said Lee. “But there are so many options that are available to us—there are much safer options than using sunscreen sprays.
Spray-on products are certainly better than nothing for people who otherwise refuse to use sunscreen, or for people who have a physical limitation that makes spray sunscreen the only practical option.
Further, when you use spray sunscreen, at least half of the product is being lost to the wind. You know it’s true.
Indeed, the American Academy of Dermatology says to “avoid inhaling spray sunscreen. ” But how exactly can you avoid inhaling something that you are spraying in a huge cloud over your entire body?
Lotion sunscreen gives you a small element of control and security in this chaotic world; spray sunscreen merely introduces more chaos.
Rub yourself down with sunscreen lotion—and note that you need a half-teaspoon of product for the face and neck and a full shot-glass worth of product for the whole body—and then use a wet wipe to clean off your hands. (But not the backs of your hands—they need sunscreen, too. ) Brilliant, right?
She recommends using sunscreen sticks and teaching children to apply their own sunscreen by using the sticks to draw geometric shapes on their skin and then rubbing it in.
I spoke with California-based dermatologist Ivy Lee, who told me she shares my disdain for spray sunscreen.
Update: Added additional information to emphasize that spray sunscreen is better than no sunscreen at all.
I know there are parents out there who say the only way to get any sunscreen at all on their squirmy children is to use a spray.
Spray sunscreen takes everything that is good and holy about sunscreen and destroys it.
Perhaps the most serious concern about spray sunscreen is its safety.
She said that so many people use all sunscreens improperly (by not applying enough, not rubbing it in, and not reapplying frequently) that her clients often get sunburned even through they used sunscreen.
Okay, surely you now agree with me that spray sunscreen is the worst.
Oh yeah, and spray sunscreen is freaking flammable.
But there is one sunscreen I do not love: spray sunscreen.
Sunscreen sticks are also less likely to run into the eyes, because they have a thicker consistency. “With kids, the sticks are very helpful in terms of building that self-efficacy, building a sunscreen habit,” Lee said. “Have the kids be active participants in their sun safety.
But Lee, like all dermatologists, recommends doing more than just applying sunscreen to avoid sunburns, wrinkles, and skin cancer.