Why I Don’t Use Spray Sunscreen (& You Shouldn’t Either)

I love convenient things. Like takeout pizza. Online shopping. Feedly. But not everything that looks convenient really is. One exception, for instance, is spray sunscreen.

I used to be a big fan of it. It’s practical to carry around, can be easily sprayed on those hard-to-reach areas, and doesn’t leave that ghostly white residue behind. What’s not to love? The poor protection it affords.

Spray sunscreen is harder to apply evenly

To be fair, spray sunscreens, just like any other sunscreen on the market, are formulated to give the level of SPF stated on the bottle when applied properly. And that’s the catch. Applying the necessary amount of sunscreen lotion (1/4 teaspoon just for the face and neck, and 1 oz for the body) is difficult enough. With a spray formula, it’s even harder.

But why? Shouldn’t it be harder to spread those thick lotions on the skin? Well, they may not be the most pleasant to use, but at least you can see exactly where you apply them. Spray sunscreens are usually transparent, so it’s easy to miss a spot or two. You also won’t see how much of the product has landed on your towel, or, carried by the breeze, on your neighbour. What a waste!

Another common problem is the speed of application. We tend to zip over the different areas of our body in a matter of seconds but, according to an experiment done by Nikki of Future Derm, “to apply enough spray sunscreen to achieve the level of protection listed on a bottle, [...] you need approximately six seconds of application per area of your body“. Otherwise you get only a fraction of the SPF and the protection it affords.

Spray sunscreens can be drying and irritating for sensitive skin

Alcohol Denat, or SD Alcohol, can be found in many spray sunscreens. The reason? It lower the surface tension, allowing the product to spray better. But alcohol is a controversial ingredient in skincare. Some experts, like Paula Begoun, believe it is always drying and irritating to the skin, and should be avoided. Others, like Nikki Zevola think that is safe for everyone but those with dry skin. I believe it depends on the formula. If it contains enough emollients and moisturizing ingredients, then they’ll be able to combat the dryness caused by alcohol. Even then, though, those with dry and sensitive skin that’s more prone to irritations should stay away from it.

The bottom line

Spray sunscreens may be convenient, but they are also harder to apply evenly and, because they often include alcohol, they can be drying and irritating for people with dry and sensitive skin. If you choose to use them anyway, make sure you spray each section of the body for at least 6 seconds to get the level of SPF stated on the packaging.

Do you use spray sunscreens?

4 Comment

  1. I totally get what you’re saying, but I’ll still use them in some cases. For instance, I live alone. If I’m going out in something that shows my back, I don’t have anyone to put sunscreen on me. So, in those cases, I’ll use the lotion variety where I can reach, and then spray my back. Better than nothing, right?

    But…there are those times where I’m like, “Eff it,” and I only use spray. Shh…don’t tell anyone! ;)
    Trisha´s last blog post ..BeautyADDICTS Mineral SheerTINT’s Packaging WoesMy Profile

    • Trisha, you make a good point. I guess there are cases when a spray sunscreen can be preferable to a lotion. It may not provide as much protection, but it’s definitely better than nothing, I agree.

    • Monica, it’s not the best option, is it? But I suppose, sometimes, it can’t be avoided. Always better than using nothing at all. :)

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