The Serious Dangers of Spray Sunscreen
Spray sunscreen is all the rage now.
But have you heard about spray sunscreen dangers? Are you wondering if spray sunscreen is safe?
I'm covering all of the ins and outs of spray sunscreen safety so you can make a well-informed decision about whether or not you want to use this on yourself and your loved one.
We have a community pool in our new neighborhood. I'm no longer a sun bather (I did way too much of that in my younger years), and really don't care for chlorine, but we have been enjoying the pool quite a bit.
And I'm constantly seeing all kinds of people spraying sunscreen on themselves. It seems like everyone is using it.
They're convenient, they cover easily, and kids with sensory issues about textures and having things spread on them like them a lot better than regular sunscreen.
In fact, many daycares say that parents should ONLY send spray sunscreen with their child!
But with that convenience comes risk. And it's a big one.
Even if you are using "safer" spray sunscreens, you could be putting your (and your children's) health at risk.
And even the spray sunscreen manufacturers know this.
Spray Sunscreen Dangers
In addition to normal sunscreen safety tips, there are special things to take into consideration when using spray sunscreen. Here are some of the things to think about when deciding whether or not to use these products--and how to use them should you choose to do so.
If you look at a bottle of spray sunscreen, you can see that there are warnings, but are we heeding them and do we know why they are there? Here are some warnings that you can see on spray sunscreen bottles:
"If swallowed, get medical help or contact a Poison Center right away."
"Do not spray directly into face."
"Do not apply in windy conditions."
"Use in a well-ventilated area."
"Avoid inhaling or exposing others to spray."
"Keep away from face to avoid breathing it."
Doesn't sound too good, does it?
I mean, basically, you need to hold your breath for a long time while putting this on and don't put it on around other people unless they are holding their breath too.
Not easy to coordinate that kind of thing anywhere, let alone at the pool or beach.
I'll stick with my "not as cool or as much fun" spread on sunscreen and be good with it.
In fact, it was a huge mess trying to get the photos for this post. The sunscreen got caught up in the wind over and over again so we had to hold our breath. Then it went all over my clothes and even the camera.
This stuff flies EVERYWHERE!
Well, let's talk about the risks--it's a pretty scary list.
First let's talk about the typical sunscreens on the market. When you spray sunscreens, besides the risk to your skin and overall health of what you are applying to your skin, there is the added risk of inhalation. You are at risk of inhaling any of the ingredients including:
Chemical Sunscreens Such As:
and any of the other ingredients on the list such as (these ingredients are taken from the label of a popular brand of sunscreen):
- artificial fragrances
- styrene / acrylates
- glyceryl stearate
- PEG-100 stearate
- acrylates / dimethicone copolymer
- acrylates / c10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer
- Diethylhexyl 2,6-naphthalate
- Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate
- Disodium EDTA
Not really wanting to be breathing any of those :(.
Now, assuming you are using "safer sunscreens", the likely active ingredients would be mineral sunscreens--titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide.
Now, those ingredients aren't really "on the radar" of skin toxicity guardians.
But here's the deal. If you're spraying sunscreen, the big risk for these two ingredients is--yes, you guessed it--inhalation.
Check out the toxicity warnings about titanium dioxide and zinc oxide from EWG's Skin Deep:
- "It appears to have low skin penetration, but inhalation is a concern."
- Cancer: - 3 agencies cite it as having carcinogenic (causing cancer) properties when inhaled.
- Organ System Toxicity - Classified as expected to be toxic or harmful
- 4 citations of respiratory toxicity concerns
- Occupational Hazard citations
- Ecotoxicology - (toxic to the environment)
Cancer. Respiratory Toxicity. Toxic to the Environment. Occupational Hazard.
Basically, you do NOT want to be inhaling these things. But it's hard to avoid when you're out in public.
One day, at our community pool, I was sitting at least 15-20 feet from a young girl who was spraying a popular brand of sunscreen on her body. I felt like I was being gassed. Now, I have always been sensitive to "fragrances", but this was strong.
So I held my breath and turned away. Not just because of the stink, but I also didn't want that titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and other toxic stuff going into my lungs.
Flammability is a concern for two reasons.
One - the cans themselves are flammable (due to what is inside) which can really be an issue in hot conditions. If you choose to use spray sunscreen, be very careful where you leave the cans.
Second - the spray contains flammable components. The labels do state this, but you really do need to be careful spraying around barbecues, etc. Think about this--if you spray sunscreen on and then walk too close to a citronella candle, you could literally go up in flames!
In many sunscreens, the ingredients are not safe for the environment. That goes for many regular sunscreens (non spray) and other body care products as well, but more so for spray-on products.
Safe Sunscreen Options
Of course, besides the aerosol spray aspect and possible inhalation issues, there are a lot of other things to be concerned about when buying sunscreen. I talked about other Sunscreen Do's and Don'ts in this post, and of course, you want to buy a brand that is safe -- not just as far as being "non spray", but as far as the other ingredients that they use.
I listed the brands I've tried in the Sunscreen Do's and Don'ts post, but I apologize -- I really haven't tried tons. Like I said, my sunbathing days are mainly over, but I do like to get some natural vitamin D from the sun when I can. Maybe I can try some more later this summer on my boys, or next year.
I also plan to share a Homemade Sunscreen Recipe with you soon. I've made this once, but it was a little thicker feeling once it was on than I would like.
Following are sunscreens that I have personally used and liked.
I have been a fan of Miessence for a long time.
Their products are super "clean" and basically, you can eat almost anything in their product line since it's food-grade organic.
This post on fermented foods and this one on probiotics will give you an idea of why. Their products are super safe and this sunscreen rates a low "1" on EWG's Skin Deep (where I turn for a lot of my information on the safety of beauty and personal care products).
You can find it here in my Miessence Store.
Beautycounter is one of the few companies that I trust. With so many "natural" and "clean" companies getting caught not being honest and ethical, you really want to buy from a company that isn't lying about what they are putting in their products.
Beautycounter is one such company.
They have a broad range of very nice sun protection including their Stick Sunscreen and Lip Sunscreen.
Their Sunscreen Lotion performs really well too.
I used this one in the past and like it fine -- it was the first supposedly non-toxic brand I tried and we liked it just fine.
It has a low rating on EWG's SkinDeep but please take note of the mixed reviews on Amazon.
There are also multiple other products that they offer with SPF protection, including their BB Cream (foundation) which I love, lip balm with SPF, moisturizer, and sunscreen sticks.
I also did try Goddess Garden's SPF 30 Sport.
It's very thin which is nice if you don't like the feel of thick sunscreens. It also is a grayish color.
I don't really mind that but just so you know ahead of time -- it's not the typical white sunscreen.
Safer Spray Sunscreen
If after reading all of this, you still choose to use a Spray Sunscreen, I recommend choosing one with safer ingredients, not spraying while it's windy, and if possible, holding your breath while spraying.
I personally LOVE Beautycounter--they are second to none when it comes to transparency and there are no artificial fragrances in any of their products.
Their Mineral Sunscreen Mist works really well and ranks as a 3 on EWG / Skin Deep.
Do you use Spray Sunscreen?
If so, will you keep doing so after reading this?
Share with a friend to keep them healthy too!
Spray sunscreen is going to be the death of me. I love to go to the beach. I can't breathe when people Spray their sunscreen. I cough for days and have to leave the beach. I wish it was out lawed. I can't breathe when people use it. I don't know why people think it's so wonderful.
Oh that's so terrible!! I agree that it's a mess. I hate overregulation but I do think it's like second hand smoke....and a LOT of articles are coming out now saying that artificial fragrance is just that! Here's a post I wrote about that....I could add a TON more info now!
Helpful - thanks!
A better solution is to slowly build up your skins natural sunscreen. It is called Melanin. It is natural and healthy. So is getting sun for that matter. Burning is what causes skin cancer. Skin cancer was very rare when we humans were out in the sun all the time. We evolved on a sun planet and our bodies are not just well equipped to handle the sun, but will also stay in better health when we get regular doses of good old-fashioned sunshine. FACT: The incidence of skin cancer has risen in proportion to the use of commercial sunscreen. Sunscreen addicts need to think about that.
I have heard about this. So you are recommending getting out in the sun regularly?
Absolutely. There are also a host of skin disorders helped by UV light. Look up UV therapy. I have one friend with chronic fungal infections of the skin that made her life miserable for 20 years. Guess what happened when she started sunbathing... You guessed it, not a problem since. I have another friend who has spongiotic dermatitis with eosinophils eczema. She used steroid creme and antibiotics, which only had about a 50% success rate. Her other option, was an immune suppressing creme or.... you guessed it... UV light. She opted to start going to the beach with me and has seen her condition gradually disappear. It also cures depression. I have first hand knowledge of that.
How about the dangers of cancer from UV light? How often is she sun bathing and what does one do in the winter?
I appreciate the information! I had heard that spray sunscreen was not good for you but didn't know exactly why...now that i recognize how unhealthy inhalation is I'll look for other products. You also cited and linked to EWG, so anyone needing further facts or scientific information can go to their site. Some people want uncomplicated information to help urge their purchasing decisions.
This is the most informal and worthless article I have ever read. Find some real facts and maybe an editor.
I'm sorry you felt that way but I could do without the rudeness. Seems like, from your email address, that you are not willing to be accountable for your rude behavior. I did update the post -- seems that some information was missing from it somehow, but it's more thorough now.
Wow you seem to be extremely miserable.shes someone TRYING to help peple...and you go say that!!!! Sad. By the way I LOVED IT.ALOT OF SERIOUS INFO IN HEAR IM YOUNG AND TRYING TO TAKE CARE OF MY HEALTH....THANKS ALOT!!!!!
Thank you so much, Danielle. It is a shame that people think they can just come on blogs, etc and write hurtful things like that. You might be interested in our Healthy Living Community on Facebook. Here's a link so you can join if you'd like: https://www.facebook.com/groups/171490083677560/ Feel free to drop in and poke around or ask anything you'd like / help others.
I am lucky enough to live close to a beach. I go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and to avoid the spray sunscreens. My rule of thumb is that when I start smelling sunscreen instead of beach, it's time to leave.
You are blessed. And yes, it is time to leave -- or move.
Another danger...makes the tile patio very, very slippery and you may find yourself, while on vacation in Hawaii, taking your grandmother to the hospital for a dislocated finger from a bad fall.
Great point!!! Thanks for commenting.
Thank you for such a through article. However, I don't think you can lump all spray products in the same category. We have been using Goddess Garden products for a couple of years and love their coverage and ease of use. The boys love the continuous spray but only spray their bodies with it and use their hands to spray their face. I hear your concern about inhalation of zinc and titanium. EWG writesas it pertains to spray sunscreens,, "EWG is especially concerned about inhalation of nano-sized and micronized zinc and titanium in powdered sunscreens and makeups. Inhalation is a much more direct route of exposure to these compounds than skin penetration, which appears to be low in healthy skin. If you want the benefits of a mineral sunscreen, choose a zinc- or titanium-based lotion. If you use a pump or spray sunscreen, lower your inhalation risk by applying it to your hands and then wiping it on your face." I questioned Goddess Garden about the inhalation issue and they assured me that their product does not contain nano particles and thus, can't be inhaled. If anyone is worried about possible inhalation issues, I would follow EWG's advice about not spraying it near your face. That being said, make sure you choose a spray product that EWG has rated well such as Goddess Garden's continuous spray.
Hi Anna. You are correct that there are some very toxic spray sunscreens and Goddess Garden is for sure preferred to that. I would like to know where that statement from EWG is - do you have that information please? From what I read on EWG's site, there are numerous agencies concerned about the inhalation of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and I don't see a mention of the particle size there.
I completely agree that if spray sunscreen is all that you have access to, then spraying it on your hands and wiping is the best way to go. Thanks so much.
Here is the EWG link: https://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/faqs-your-sunscreen-questions-our-answers/#question_33. Go to the section entitled "Why shouldn’t I use sunscreen sprays and powders?" Science Daily states a nanoparticle is "is a microscopic particle with at least one dimension less than 100 nm." (https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/nanoparticle.htm) Goddess states in their FAQs that their products do not contain nano-particles. They state.: " A “nano-particle” is often considered a particle under 100nm (nanometers) in size. All of our minerals have a range between 100 and 130nm with an average size of 120nm. This means that our minerals are all non-nano. (https://www.goddessgarden.com/faqs/) I hope this helps. Again, thanks for the through article.
Thanks, Anna. I just read that. So again, it seems that they are concerned about inhalation of spray sunscreens, but especially so for those with nano particles. Am I reading it incorrectly or do you see something different there?
It seems that the preference would be that the best thing to do is use no spray sunscreen and next best is a spray sunscreen w/ no nano particles and worst is spray sunscreen w/ nano particles. Of course, we are not taking the other toxic ingredients into account w/ this analysis.
Of course it contains nanoparticles! All that means is that there are small bits of solid zinc and titanium suspended in a liquid. Nanoparticles or small solids of any kind ARE dangerous if inhaled. The cila that line your airways are unable to remove very small particles, nanoparticles.
Thx for your post on why spray sunscreens are not safe. And you're right; spray bottles are annoying when people spray irresponsibly around people in public, especially, when they use ones that have toxic chemicals. That's why I love Goddess Garden sunscreens because they are totally safe, organic, and their sprayers have specific directions on how to use them when applying. I have one that I absolutely love since it goes on transparent, smooth, and evenly. I spray on my legs directly, being careful not to spray around people or when it's windy, but I spray onto my hands when using it for my face - all of these info are on their bottle under directions. And like every product I use, I keep them away from my eyes. I think these are common sense etiquette that sometimes people ignore.
But one thing about Goddess Garden's spray that's different from other brands - even other 'safer' ones - is that their particles are 120nm in size and therefore, they are NOT NANO (100nm and under) particles. So while you'll still see the brief "puff" when you spray, the particles fall due to the heavy weight and unless you are intentionally inhaling the particles or being sprayed directly to the face, there is less chance that you'll end up inhaling them.
Having said, I trust Goddess Garden's non-toxic mineral organic ingredients that are safe for people, reef, water, and the environment. EWG rates their products highest they give for lotions, creams (#1) and even for sprays (#3). You can find their ratings here ( https://www.ewg.org/2015sunscreen/best-sunscreens/best-beach-sport-sunscreens/) and FAQ about Godess Garden here (https://www.goddessgarden.com/faqs/)
If you are comparing apples to apples, I'd go with safe non-nano Goddess Garden spray and not toxic chemical laden ones.
Thanks for bringing up this important topic Adrienne!
Thanks, Karen. Can you tell me what you think about inhaling the zinc oxide? It concerns me, even at the non-nano levels. I don't think that the EWG warnings have anything to do with the particle size, but the concern is that any size would be inhaled.
If you are worried that Zinc Oxide ends up in your body, you shouldn't use ANY sprays. I just felt that lumping ALL sprays with Goddess Garden and assuming that they are all bad is unfair since GG's sprays don't function like the others. Heavier molecules (non-nano) just don't fly all over the place unless your face is in direct line of the spray.
Would I purposely inhale zinc oxide or any minerals? No. I wouldn't want to test how my body would react. But I am confident that using Goddess Garden spray will NOT make me inhale its minerals when I use it responsibly.
Hi Karen. I am not worried about topical application of zinc oxide (if it can be absorbed into the body), but I am concerned about it being inhaled from spray sunscreens and that was the reason for the post. I think that of course heavier molecules are less of a risk, but if there is a slight breeze or a not totally compliant child, or someone w/ a cold who sneezes, coughs, when they shouldn't, etc., then it would be more than easy to inhale these things. I think that GG's formulation is very nice but I am not comfortable w/ spray sunscreen. That being said, if someone were going to use a spray sunscreen no matter what, then of course I would recommend Goddess Garden over any others that I know of.
I was gassed out yesterday by someone with sunscreen spray. Most of it was effectively blown away by the wind and so the person kept spraying and spraying in order for it to lay thick enough on her skin. It was disgusting. Thanks for sharing this info. Its good to get the word out about the dangers of things that are starting to become in style. My other concern is how these sprays and sunblocks are affecting our environment. We were swimming at our local lake and I noticed a film of sunscreen chemicals floating on the water. This has got to be bad for the lake and the fish in it.
I totally agree with you - thanks for sharing!! All the more reason to use as clean of a sunscreen as possible. I'm testing another one out right now.
We use Blue Lizard Sensitive Sunscreen or Blue Lizard Baby - it is a little thick but goes on well and after a few minutes you cannot see it and best of all lasts a long time in the water. I have used this on my son and he has done really well with it. I am allergic to cinnamates and that is what octinoxate is. The FDA let manufacturers rename it around 10 years ago I think. I will have to check out the ones you recommended above.
Sounds good! I didn't know that about octinoxate - thanks for sharing! Hope to see you around again!
Our favorite sunscreen is wearing a rash guard -- then there are no chemicals, sprays, or stickiness involved.
I just bought some for myself this year. I find them a little warm, but I do like them.
We definitely agree. Go with a cream / lotion and avoid sprays. Even organizations like the EWG and Consumer Reports advise this.
NO I don't use commercial sunscreen. My coconut oil recipe serves me well and is good for my skin. I wish everyone could see and understand the problems arising using all the products they put on their skin. Nothing goes on my skin that I don't make with coconut oil and essential oils (NAN's which btw you turned my on to and thank you!) The only problem I have had is with the deodorant, either they break me out or they just don't work. Wish I could figure that one out, hate stinky armpits.
Good for you!!
I'm so glad to hear it! As for deodorant, it's hard. Did you try Primal Pit Paste? The stick lasts a pretty long time. I am trying another one out now too.
Well was going to order but coupon is no longer valid and one stick was going to cost almost $20 with s&h so I will continue to try to make my own. Thanks for trying anyway. BTW again, when I order from NAN from their site can I enter your coupon and you still get credit for it?
Oh no! It was supposed to be a perpetual coupon. I can talk to them but I do think my original contact isn't there anymore. Did you check the Amazon prices?
I don't have an NAN coupon at present. If you go through my site I will get credit. Thanks.
No I didn't check Ama but will.. To order on your site from NAN do I go to the right side of the screen and click on their ad? I order from them about once a month and if you can get credit I will surely help you.
Yes, that or any other link on the blog works. Thanks much!
I occasionally use baking soda as deodorant. Not too often, because it can burn right after shaving, and my armpits will still be red that night. I keep a small dish of it by my bathroom sink and just dampen my fingers and dip them into the soda and then spread it on my armpits. I also brush my teeth with it no more than once a week and sometimes just swallow a small amount when I have heartburn ( about ? to ½ of my little ?-teaspoon measure). Beats Alka Seltzer, and it works almost immediately.
That's my baking soda pitch. As for sunscreen, thanks for the heads-up. I wasn't aware of the sprays.
I see that the fractions didn't save right in my previous comment. My spoon is one-eighth of a teaspoon, and. third to a half of that spoon of baking soda will kill heartburn fast.
So what do you use at other times? You are so welcome! And thank you.
Unfortunately toothpaste is one I haven't been diligent about. I use one of the major brands, sensitive-teeth formula. I tried a natural toothpaste several years ago (when there was only one choice locally) and didn't like the taste, so I haven't spent much effort to find out about other options.
I'm sure I could find one now that fits my needs. I just haven't tried. I'm open to suggestions!
Hi Suzy. Sorry for the delay - I have been swamped and under the weather. There are several I have tried. I had one I loved the flavor of, but it had glycerine and I think led to my getting cavities :(. I had another that I used for a long time, but the cap was so difficult to use, the toothpaste kept drying out almost every day and I had to stick something in the cap to get it to work again.
I am hoping to make my own soon, but right now, I am using Miessence and Theodent and I really like them.
I am loving all of their lines and am about to place another order myself to try more things out. Hope you like it if you decide to try it.