When it’s hot and sunny, it’s a heck of a lot easier to spray on aerosol sunscreen and be done with it as opposed to rubbing the broad-spectrum lotion onto each body part.
When protecting yourself or energetic children from UV rays, spray sunscreen seems like a trouble-free option, but is the spray really helping as much as the lotion?
Recent concerns from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) about the safety of spray sunscreen have led to more in-depth research about the credibility of this quick-and-easy alternative.
While aerosol sunscreen and sunscreen lotion contain the same ingredients, there are two specific concerns with spray sunscreen that make it a bigger risk than its counterpart.
One concern with spray sunscreens is that it’s difficult to know when you’ve put a sufficient amount. This is particularly true on a windy day or if you’re attempting to spray a quick-moving child on the beach.
In an interview with Global News, Dr. Asif Pirani, a plastic surgeon at the Toronto Plastic Surgery Center, said when it comes to using spray, “You’re more likely to use a lot less just because people get just a little bit of spray on them, they think it’s enough. But you really need a nice, thick, even coating of it.”
So if you opt for the spray, make sure to pay extra attention to hard-to-reach spots like the back, as well as the backs of legs and arms, and make sure the spray covers those areas.
The more serious risk associated with spray sunscreen is the potential to inhale some of the possibly harmful ingredients. Sunscreen contains phthalates, which are a group of chemicals used to soften plastics. Researchers suspect that these chemicals can cause endocrine disruption — in other words they could affect normal hormone activity in the body.
Considering these risks, spray sunscreen could be dangerous for use on children, whose hormone levels are crucial to normal growth and development.
This potential threat has given the FDA reason to launch an investigation of the dangers of spray sunscreen and has called for groups like the Environmental Working Group and Consumer Reports to advise against the use of spray sunscreen when regular sunscreen lotion is readily available, especially on children.
“Until the Food and Drug Administration completes an analysis it began in 2011 on the potential risks of spray sunscreens, our advice is that the products should generally not be used by or on children,” said a 2014 Consumer Reports article.
However, there’s one thing that all groups agree on: Spray sunscreen, when used cautiously, is better than no sunscreen at all.
In such a case, Consumer Reports recommends that parents should, “…spray the sunscreen onto your hands and rub it on. As with all sunscreens, be especially careful on the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth."