Many people prefer spray sunscreens. In our recent survey of 1,000 people, more than half chose sprays; most said it was because they are easier to apply. But they come with some risks, so we advise against using them on children. Here are the concerns.
1. It's tough to tell if you're really covered
Judging the amount of spray sunscreen you're using can be difficult, especially because we found that spray patterns varied from product to product. And on a windy day the sunscreen may blow away before it hits your body. To make sure you're covered, hold the bottle 4 to 6 inches away, spray thoroughly, then repeat. And stay out of the wind.
2. You might inhale them
Inhaling the ingredients is especially risky for kids , who are likely to squirm as you spray them. Also, a few sprays contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which may contain tiny nanoparticles. (We didn't test sprays with those ingredients.) Inhaling those or any other spray could cause lung irritation—or worse. Breathing in titanium dioxide may be a cancer risk.
In fact, the European Commission's Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety recommends against using sprays with titanium dioxide nanoparticles. so if you choose to use any spray sunscreens, never spray your face.
3. They may be flammable
Last year more than 20 sprays were recalled because of reports of burn injuries involving people who got too close to an open flame—such as a grill—while the spray was still wet. (Lotions can also contain flammable ingredients, but they don't come with the same risk.)
4. You'll probably spend more
Because some of the product may escape into the air, it's smart to spray yourself twice, so you're likely to go through a bottle faster.