Don't spray sunscreens on kids, at least for now

Last updated: July 02, 2014 04:15 PM

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Spray sunscreeens are popular, especially for use on children. But our safety experts are particularly concerned about the possibility that people might accidentally breathe in the ingredients, a risk that’s greatest in children, who—as any parent knows—are more likely to squirm around when they’re being sprayed.

Until the Food and Drug Administration completes an analysis it began in 2011 on the potential risks of spray sunscreens, our advice is that the products should generally not be used by or on children. (July 2, 2014, update*: Find the best sunscreen for babies and kids.)

Finally, we would like to re-emphasize our longstanding advice that you use sprays carefully by following these tips:

• Don’t use sprays on children, unless you have no other product available. In that case, spray the sunscreen onto your hands and rub it on. As with all sunscreens, be especially careful on the face, avoiding the eyes and mouth.

• Adults can still use sprays—but don’t spray your face. Instead, spray on your hands and rub it on, making sure to avoid your eyes and mouth. And try to avoid inhaling it.

• Make sure you apply enough. Our tests have found that sprays can work well when used properly—but it is harder to make sure that you apply enough, especially when it’s windy. We recommend spraying as much as can be evenly applied, and then repeating, just to be safe. On windy days, you might want to spray the sunscreen on your hands and rub it on—or just choose one of our recommended lotions instead.

For details, see our sunscreen Ratings.

FDA Announces Changes to Better Inform Consumers About Sunscreen [FDA]

Joel Keehn

Editor's Note:

A version of this article was originally published in July 2011.

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