Spray Sunscreen Safety: What You Need to Know

Every summer, leagues of families, beach bums and waterbugs flock to the shoreline to soak up the heat and the rays.

Can you blame them? Frankly, given the choice between writing this and hitting the water, I’d take the water any day.

For many, during a fun day at the beach, sun safety takes a backseat to summer fun. Unfortunately, these people are likely to use the least expensive and easiest to apply sunscreen they can find, and then spend 6 hours outside, most likely without applying. Their sunscreen of choice is often found in a spray container. Aerosol sunscreens have been growing in popularity in recent years because of their simplicity and ease of application. And it’s much easier to spray children down with a bottle than it is to lather them up with the traditional lotion.

Dmitry Naumov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Naumov / Shutterstock.com


With the rising popularity of spray-on sunscreen, obviously there are some people who are questioning not only its effectiveness, but also its safety. So this begs the question:

Is spray sunscreen safe?

Arguably, it isn’t. Here are a few reasons why:

It Blocks the Wrong UV Rays

UV rays are the main thing we have been protecting ourselves from for years. We were told in school and by our doctors that UV rays are harmful to our bodies and eyes, hence the sunglasses and parasols that I’m sure you carry on your walks about town.

There are two kinds of UV rays that penetrate our skin: UVA and UVB. Since its inception, sunscreen has been designed to block UVB rays, and spray-on sunscreen is no different. However, recent studies have shown that UVB helps our bodies create Vitamin D – something North Americans sorely need more of. The best way to get Vitamin D is from direct sunlight – like, by going outside with your shirt, and maybe more, off. In my opinion, blocking the rays that help create the vitamin you are going outside to get more of makes zero sense.

There are now some sunscreens that are designed to block UVA rays, which is a very good thing. UVA rays are the rays that cause melanoma – the skin cancer that everyone knows about and that has taken lives.

Blocking UVA is a good thing. Blocking UVB isn’t.

sakkmesterke / Shutterstock.com
sakkmesterke / Shutterstock.com


It Contains a Host of Mystery Chemicals

As with many mass produced products, there are a lot of really bad things in sunscreen. Spray on sunscreen is exceptionally worse. (We’ll get to that in a minute.) According to Mercola.com, here are some of the great chemicals in sunscreen that are probably super safe and totally won’t kill you later on in your life:

Oxybenzone: This is what’s put in sunscreen to absorb ultraviolet light. Sounds great in theory, right? Well, it is also believed to “cause hormone disruptions and cell damage that may provoke cancer.” What a barrel of monkeys! According to EWG, “…the chemical oxybenzone penetrates the skin, gets into the bloodstream and acts like estrogen in the body, it can trigger allergic reactions. Data are preliminary, but studies have found a link between higher concentrations of ozybenzone and health harms.”

Neato! That definitely sounds like something I WANT on my body for hours!

kryzhov / Shutterstock.com
kryzhov / Shutterstock.com


Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A palmitate): If sunscreens have this in them, they may “actually increase the speed at which malignant cells develop and spread skin cancer.” This chemical is fine in night creams, but is activated when it’s in direct sunlight. Where do I sign up for that?

Synthetic Fragrance: These are chemicals that help the sunscreen smell half decent. It turns out that they’re also very bad for you. Who would have thought? Parabens interfere with hormone production; phthalates are carcinogenic and are linked to decreased sperm counts and early breast development; and synthetic musks are also linked to hormone disruption. As a general rule, avoid things that use the word “musk.”

1 of 2