When it comes to sunscreens, aerosol sprays can seem like the most convenient option, especially for busy parents trying to wrangle squirmy kids to stay still long enough to apply any sun protection at all. Spray sunscreens are sold as a game changing product. The clear formulas are generally mess-free and can be applied quickly on the go. Can't get to those hard-to-reach spots? Just spray.
But are spray sunscreens really safe to use? And are they actually as effective as lotions?
The answer isn't completely clear, even to the FDA. Consumer Reports however warned us all not to spray sunscreen on kids, at least for now. In 2011, the FDA announced it was starting an investigation into the potentially harmful risks of inhaling your sunscreen but the jury's still out on their decision.
There are two different kinds of active sunscreens: chemical sunscreens that absorbs the sun's UV rays and mineral sunscreens that block the sun's rays. Most "all-natural" sunscreens on the market are mineral sunscreens using zinc oxide as the active ingredient, while most chemical versions use oxybenzone. Claims that active ingredients from either mineral or chemical sunscreens are harmful to your health has yet to be proven.
The Environmental Working Group however recommends sticking with mineral sunscreen whenever possible. According to their new research, active ingredients in chemical sunscreens can mimic your hormones and potentially disrupt your endocrine system. The chemicals are harmful when they penetrate your skin, but even more so when you accidentally inhale them.
That's the main problem with spray sunscreens. A lot of it ends up in your mouth, your nose, your eyes, and even your lungs.
While the ingredients in sunscreen might not be so bad on your skin, inhaling them is another story. Spray sunscreens have a high-alcohol formula that can seriously irritate your lungs when inhaled. Accidentally inhaling also gets those pesky chemicals the FDA is still investigating into your bloodstream a lot faster than soaking in through the skin.
The other issue with aerosol sprays is coverage.
Most of us aren't even using spray sunscreens the right way. Quickly spraying on a thin coat of sun protection while on the go results in a lot less coverage than applying a lotion. Another danger of aerosol sprays is how highly flammable they are. Please never spray sunscreen near an open fire or flame! Until the FDA figures out where it really stands on spray sunscreens, you can follow these guidelines from consumer reports or skip the aerosols altogether and stick with mineral lotion formulas. Don't forget to reapply your sunscreen every two hours!
Want to know what other aerosol products are harmful for your health? Find out why you should ditch your toxic air fresheners and replace them with healthier alternatives.