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Are spray sunscreens safe?

Amy K. Kim, MD
Dermatology
I tell patients to look out for sprays as good reapplication. As a general rule of thumb, it is nice for people to put sunscreen on when they are putting their swim suit on because it allows for people to cover all of their skin and not miss certain areas like the swimsuit lines where people tend to burn. Sprays are nice for reapplication. If you use sprays for your first application, you are going to tend to miss areas.
The best kind of sunscreen for your child is the one they'll let you apply frequently. In this video Tanya Altmann, MD, pediatrician, discusses the pros and cons of spray-on sunscreen and the best way to apply it.
Given the ease of applying spray sunscreens on squirming kids and hard-to-reach areas, aerosolized sunscreens may seem like a dream come true. But there’s growing concern that these sprays pose serious inhalation risks. They also make it too easy to apply too little or to miss a spot, leaving bare skin exposed to harmful rays.

Even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expressed concern in 2011 about the safety and efficacy of spray sunscreens, companies continue to turn them out. One in every four beach and sport products in the Environmental Working Group 2013 sunscreen report are sprays -- and none are recommended. We give high ratings to brands that provide broad spectrum, long-lasting protection with ingredients that pose fewer health concerns when absorbed by the body.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.