Do Spray Sunscreens Really Work?

Spray sunscreens work only when applied properly.

Do spray sunscreens really work?

Yes, if used properly. That’s because some people apply spray sunscreen on their skin the way grandmothers apply Aqua Net hairspray to their beehives — tightly closed eyes and lips, swirling arms, and chemical cloudbursts. Done this way, most of the sunscreen ends up in the air, not on your skin.

Here’s how to properly apply spray sunscreens:

1. Hold the bottle 6 inches from your skin.

2. Spray evenly.

3. Rub it in.

Don’t forget to cover your hands, feet, ears, and around your hairline.

Photo credit: FCC, joccay.

10 thoughts on “Do Spray Sunscreens Really Work?”

  1. I think spray sunscreens are especially useful for little small people, as they tend to be wiggly and often don’t want to have a lotion rubbed in to their skin. And despite all of the discussion about aerosolization, I’ve yet to have a patient show up in my PICU with a respiratory issue caused by sunscreen.

    The question I have is how much do you tell your patients to apply? All sunscreens are tested at 2 mg/cm2 of skin to determine their SPF. It is a lot easier to just think 1 ounce of lotion for an adult than to figure out how much you need to spray to reach that amount. (In order to reach the correct application of a powder it is something like 17g of powder for a typical face, that’s a HUGE amount!) I just don’t want to think that I’ve gotten SPF 30 on my daughter and really I’ve only used enough for about SPF 5.

  2. Melinda Holmes says:

    I had wondered if spray sunscreens really worked or not. A question though, does a spray on sunscreen work for reapplication of sunscreen over makeup? According to a magazine article I read you take spray on sunscreen, spray it onto a makeup sponge and blot, blot, blot all over your face, adding more sunscreen to the sponge frequently. I tried it and it does seem to work. By blotting it on you are not disturbing your makeup at all. Does it sound like it would work or is it a reallly bad idea? (Just because it is in print or online doesn’t make it so!) Thanks!

  3. Thanks for your confidence in me, Melinda. This is online after, all. 🙂

    Actually, it’s not a good idea. Spray sunscreens must soak into the skin to work. They have to be applied directly to the skin and under makeup.

  4. Great question, Christine. Spray until the skin is wet, evenly. For spray sunscreens, that’s adequate. Even if the true SPF is not 30, it is likely to be high enough to adequately protect her. Reapplying every 2 to 4 hours is just as important.

  5. Melinda Holmes says:

    Good to know. Any suggestions as to a way to reapply sunscreen over makeup that would work then? A high spf powder? I am thinking that probably won’t work either. It takes so much powder to come up with the spf listed on the label it would probably look caked on.

  6. I agree about the powder looking caked on. Unfortunately, this isn’t a good way to apply sunscreen once your make-up is on. You would have to remove your make-up, apply the sunscreen, the re-apply the make-up. That’s the best way to ensure the sunscreen would work. I know it’s not practical, but it’s the truth.

  7. Melinda Holmes says:

    Definitely not practical to take all the makeup off and reapply every couple of hours. So, basically, as of right now there IS no solution to reapplying that works? Someone needs to invent one!

    On days when you will be outside all day and keep the makeup to a minimum should all makeup be cleaned off before reapplying? Would wipes do for that purpose?

    Sorry for all the questions but I cannot find the answers. I have looked. Thanks for taking the time to answer! I appreciate it. 🙂

  8. I understand, Melinda. Yes, all make-up should be removed before reapplying sunscreen, and, yes, cleansing wipes would do the trick.

  9. Melinda Holmes says:

    Thanks. Now I know how to deal with days when I will be outside all day. 🙂

    On days when I will only be outside for a short time but have had sunscreen (zinc based – Blue Lizard for face) on since morning I am going to try go!screen brush on powder sunscreen over my already applied powder makeup. I will let you know if it ends up giving that caked on look.

    My skin is oily and sensitive. I wear powder makeup anyway so maybe this will work out for just being out for an hour or so. I liked that there are few ingredients. Less of a chance of an adverse reaction that way.

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