sunscreen spray vs lotion

Sunscreen Spray vs Lotion

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sunscreen spray vs lotion

One of the greatest perks of a beautiful summer day is playing and spending time outdoors. Getting out and enjoying the warm weather can be fun, but also potentially harmful if you do not take precautions against the sun’s rays.

Whether you are heading to the pool, the beach, or just sitting outdoors in your backyard, it is important to protect your skin. Applying sunscreen regularly is crucial for blocking the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays and preventing skin disease and cancer.

Sunscreen Spray vs Lotion: Which Should You Use?

sunscreen spray vs lotion

You may be wondering why you need to wear anything at all. Maybe you’re only planning on doing laps in the pool for about 30 minutes. Perhaps you’ve gone to the beach every summer since you were a kid and never wore sunscreen. You’ve possibly checked the weather and seen that most of the day will be cloudy.

Regardless of the length of time you plan to be outdoors, the conditions outside, or whether you have lathered up in the past, you should always wear sunscreen in the summer. This even applies on cloudy days as the sun is still able to reach you. 

The ultraviolet rays of the sun can damage your skin in several crucial ways. Prolonged direct exposure to the sun can lead to aging effects, including leathery skin and wrinkles. You likely will not see these effects immediately, but they will be noticeable as you grow older and have accumulated time in the sun.

Sun exposure can also cause a sunburn, which is not only painful but also dangerous. A severe sunburn can possibly lead to sun poisoning, which causes blisters and flu-like symptoms, and can significantly increase your chances for developing skin cancer. In fact, it only takes one blistering sunburn to double your risk for melanoma or other cancers.

So, even if you think you don’t need it or you’ve never used it before, it’s very important to wear sunscreen each and every time you are outside, especially in the summer when the sun is most potent. Is all sunscreen created equal though? Here is information regarding the effectiveness and safety of spray sunscreen vs lotion that will help you to best protect your skin this summer.

Sunscreen Lotion

sunscreen spray vs lotion

When you picture sunscreen in your mind, you probably envision a bottle of lotion. In the debate of sunscreen spray vs lotion, there are several factors to consider, and lotion has a number of advantages. 

  • Because it has a relatively thick consistency, lotion sunscreen is easy to spread it evenly and in a thick coat, which is recommended by experts for optimal sun protection.
  • Due to their white color, lotions make it easy to tell if you missed covering a portion of your skin, ensuring that you don’t leave any spots on your body without sun protection.
  • While sunscreen lotion is thick enough to apply easily, it is thin enough to feel comfortable on your skin and not feel greasy.
  • Lotion sunscreens come in a wide variety of sun protection factor (SPF) levels. Experts recommend that you wear a minimum of 30 SPF, with 50 SPF being the optimal level of protection.
  • There are also water resistant varieties that maintain their SPF level even while you swim and play in the water.

While the use of any sunscreen is encouraged, there are some drawbacks to this type of sunblock.

  • Because the lotion has to be applied directly by hand, it is difficult to sufficiently cover all areas of your body by yourself.
  • The lotion can be messy and leave white marks on furniture or clothes if it drips or doesn’t blend in quickly when applied.
  • It can make your hands feel sticky and messy when applying lotion sunscreen for someone else.
  • When applying sunscreen to children, lotion can be difficult and incredibly messy. Kids need to stand still for a while in order to be sufficiently coated with lotion sunscreen, and it can take a while to apply evenly.
  • Lotion sunscreens are rarely applied thickly enough to provide the full amount of SPF indicated on the bottle. In general, you also rarely reapply the sunscreen as often as is recommended, especially when you spend time in the water.

Sunscreen Spray

sunscreen spray vs lotion

Spray sunscreens have definitely increased in popularity in recent years and are strong contenders in the contest of sunscreen spray vs lotion. Especially if you have kids, you likely already know the many pros of spray sunblocks.

  • Spray sunscreens are incredibly convenient for children. Instead of holding them still to manually rub on lotion, you are able to quickly spray and move on to the fun activities.
  • You do not have to make contact with a spray sunscreen when applying it either to yourself or someone else.
  • It is easier to cover the hard to reach areas on your body and apply the sunscreen by yourself with a spray.
  • Your skin feels much smoother and lighter after applying spray sunscreen than lotion.

As easy as the spray sunscreens are to use, there are some cons to these sunscreens.

  • You rarely apply as much spray sunscreen as you need to provide the appropriate protection. In fact, experts say that most people only put on a quarter of the amount needed to provide full SPF protection.
  • The propellant used in the spray canister can be harmful if inhaled. In some cases, it can trigger and worsen asthma. Experts recommend that you never spray these sunscreens on your face.
  • Spray sunscreens are flammable and could severely burn you or your child if they get too near an open flame. While this is probably not an issue at the pool or beach, spray sunscreen can be dangerous if used or worn near a grill or campfire.
  • Because you cannot easily measure the amount applied when spraying, it can be difficult to assess whether you’ve applied the recommended one ounce of sunscreen.

The Verdict: Spray Sunscreen vs Lotion

sunscreen spray vs lotion

There are many pros and cons for each type of sunscreen, so how do you know which one to go with? Well, the experts agree that lotion sunscreens slightly outrank spray sunblocks. Here are their reasons:

  • The propellant and potential health risks of the spray sunscreen make it a riskier choice overall. The possibility of long-term health issues makes experts lean in the direction of lotion sunscreens.
  • The less precise coverage of spray sunscreens is also a concern. The inability to specifically measure out the amount of sunscreen applied and to see that it was evenly sprayed onto the body makes it potentially less effective than the lotions.

Regardless of which sunscreen you choose, there are other important details to remember when using either lotion or spray sunblocks.

  • The SPF listed on the bottle is only effective when you apply the appropriate amount of sunscreen. This is equivalent to an ounce of lotion sunscreen for your entire body or a six-second spray per area of the body with a spray sunblock.
  • Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30 and ideally 50. Sunscreens with SPF higher than 50 are not significantly more effective, so there is no need to pay extra for those.
  • Your sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB rays, as both are harmful to your skin. This information should be clearly indicated on the bottle.
  • If a sunscreen boasts that it is water-resistant, keep in mind that this has a time limit. Typically these sunscreens only protect you for about 40 minutes in the water, possibly up to 80. Sunscreens are now required per the FDA to be specifically labeled with the time frame to make it easier for you to apply carefully and correctly. Again, these time frames only apply to sunscreen applied in the recommended amounts.
  • Sunscreen should initially be put on about 15 minutes before going outside and should be reapplied approximately every 2 hours.

At the end of the day, dermatologists agree that the sunscreen you are willing to use is the ideal sunscreen. While lotion will likely offer you more protection from the sun, the spray offers more protection than nothing. And there are many people, especially those with kids, who will continue to utilize sprays simply for their convenience.

As long as you apply the appropriate amount or spray for the recommended length of time, your sunscreen will help protect your skin and keep you healthy.

27 thoughts on “Sunscreen Spray vs Lotion

  1. Harry

    If it’s sunny outside, I never leave my house without having my sunscreen with me… I have been using lotion for many years and I recently switched to spray because it’s way more convenient.

    I have my doubts though that it’s not as protective from the harmful rays as a lotion is because I got a mild burn the other day despite having applied some spray…

    • Arta

      Hey Harry

      Thanks for your comment. If the SPF is the same you usually choose with sunscreen, then one of the explanations for mild burn could be that you have used an amount of the sunscreen that is not enough to protect your skin. This is the common cons of spray sunscreens.

      Happy summer, Arta

  2. RoDarrick

    Ever since my last sun burnt, I’ve learnt my lessons in a very hard way and I don’t go out in the sun without my sunscreen lotion. Yes! I like lotion better than spray because it gives much more thickness in application and easier to spot yet to be applied on places easily unlike lotion. Though my wife prefers the lotion because of the ease it cones with when applying on our son but then, I prefer the application of a lotion.

  3. Henderson

    I guess this is a battle of convenience and protection. If you ask me, I’ll pick protection. And thats exactly what I use. The sprays are just perfect for mW since I can just get them over. If I’m with someone, they help me to put them over where my hands can’t reach. The importance of sunscreen cannot be overemphasized. Great post.

  4. Dane

    I kept smiling while reading this post an my wife is right here saying “we’re going for the lotion” over and over again. Some time last two summers my wife didnt go to the beach with her lotion and she got sunburn. Since then she have always gone with her lotion in her bag. This post however have give me more reasons why I’ll pick lotion over spray, knowing I haven’t applied it to some portion of my body alone is really nice. Thanks for sharing 

  5. FranEllis

    Excellent article! The debate is very real – lotion or spray?  I have actually carried both to the beach – spray for all but my face, and lotion for it. I shudder to think of the years I spent not using anything. I think the bottom line here is to be sure you use one or the other! 

  6. affiliate_ghost

    I am glad i cam across this article a i have always wondered which is best and safe for my skin, Spray Sunscreen or  lotion Sunscreen.

    I hve used both and i prefer to use lotion now as i never appl eough spray sunscreen and have minor sunburns when i have used a spray. i know both have their cons but for lotion, i can always ask for help to make sure i am covered all round before i venture outside.

    This was quite helpful and informative. thanks.

  7. Edward

    Thank you for this article. Getting a spray sunscreen is a great idea because then you will be able to reach your back more easily. That way you could go to the beach without needing help to apply the sunscreen. I think you summed it all up very well when you talked about how the spray might have other chemicals do to the propellants. But in the end any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen to help protect our skin. Thanks!

  8. Aly

    Thank you for breaking down these options as I absolutely must have an effective sunscreen when spending time in the sun. It can be slightly easier to apply a spray, but it’s not worth it if it’s not going to be as effective due to missing spots!

    This past summer I’ve been using a foam / mousse style sunscreen. There are a couple of brands that I’ve tried and I found them to be effective (and smell nice). I also keep brush-on powder sunscreen in my purse… it’s perfect for applying on the go and is the only sunscreen I know that will not be sticky at all. Have you tried either of these formulations?

    • Arta

      Hey Aly

      I haven’t used foam sunscreen – but it is definitely an interesting topic and we will investigate this in further posts.

      Cheers, Arta

  9. Charles

    Thank you for this nice post, you have really provided great insights into the persistent debate about sunscreen spray lotion. In my own opinion I think the spray offers good skin protection and dermatologist had proven this overtime. I will share this with my partner, we once argued about this same topic and am sure she will find convincing answers here. 

  10. Jordan Smith

    You’ve said it all. For guaranteed sun protection, you are probably better off using a lotion – that’s the blunt truth. lotions offer more protection because you can actually tell how much you are putting on your skin. On average, people tend to get much less sunscreen out of a spray because they only spray for just a couple of seconds.


  11. SeunJeremiah

    Thanks for this informative post, In my opinion lotions offer more protection because you can tell how much you are putting on your child’s skin. On average, people tend to get less sunscreen out of a spray because they only spray for a couple of seconds. Overall I’ll say sunscreen lotion is the best way to go.

  12. Carol5162

    I also prefer the use of lotion compared to spray. I kind of feel the lotion disappears into the skin. I have never really paid much attention to spray sunscreens. Your article has confirmed that lotions work better. I will be checking out the water resistant holding time for sunscreens. Thank you for this highlight. Great article.

  13. Ron Ferguson

    A useful article. Do you not still need to rub sprays into the skin, like lotions? I realise its quicker to spray and the consistency is thinner, however i wonder if speed is the most important factor? (please forgive the regrettable pun!!! ha ha)  Are you required to spray it from a certain distance, or do you simply use it more frequently? and finally Is there a major cost difference? As a father of 4 I will certainly be trying spray instead of lotion. As long as the kids are still protected. 

    Thank you for your informative article

    Regards Ron

    • Arta

      Hey Ron

      Thank you for your comment. The general suggestion is not to rub spray in your skin just evenly spray it all over the skin. There is a certain distance depending on the product you use but it is always mentioned on the packaging – usually about 30cm distance. And last but not least there is no major price difference between the two types of sunscreen.

      Hope this helps, Arta

  14. Carmen

    Thanks for the tips. In childhood he was not a sun problem, but for many years his rays became destructive. I use sunscreen spray with UV as much as possible. However, I avoid exposure between 11am and 6pm. It is interesting to post about the sun lotion versus the spray.

  15. MrBiizy

    Although I have limited knowledge about sunscreen; I know they’re are very important in order to protect us from the damages that the sun can cause to our skin. I didn’t know about the spray type of sunscreen before now. Obviously the spray sunscreen is far better than the lotion sunscreen due to the many benefits and advantages of using spray sunscreen. I really learnt alot from this post regarding sunscreen.

    Thank you so much and happy new year.

  16. Mahasin1

    I love taking my family to the beach and one thing I hate is applying sun tan lotion or spray. I use both of them. However it always come with resistance from me. I put it on because it’s leading by example for my family. I have 3 children and their mother faithfully makes all of use put it on. I don’t mind it though. My only gripe is that both of them feels funny on my skin. I wish it was a substance that felt more like the natural lotion I put on.

  17. Anita

    Thank you for this review. At the end of the day, what matters most is that the sunscreen meets all the requirements to provide full protection from the sun. For someone like me who lives in East Africa, sunscreen is a must-have for the most part of the year, especially when doing a lot of outdoor activities. However, I would choose the lotion sunscreen in terms of cost and durability, it is easy to measure the amount used as compared to the spray sunscreen which sole goal is to make sure all the relevant body parts are covered.

  18. BlueMoon UniqueFashion

    I have been using both for years. When I just get to the sea and my skin is still light, I use a stronger sunscreen lotion, usually a factor of SPF 50 or 30. After a few days, when my skin gets used to the sun and I already get a color, I reduce the factor and then go to SPF 16 or 8 sunblock spray.
    I also apply a protection factor every two hours.
    For me, this method has produced great results. I don’t remember when I got a sunburn, and every time I get a great color.

  19. Shanta Rahman

    Many thanks to you for sharing such a beautiful article with us .Through this article I have the opportunity to discuss sunscreen lotion and sunscreen spray .I often use sunscreen lotion to keep my screen good when I want to go the beach on summer .I use sunscreen lotion more than sunscreen spray .Because it seems more comfortable  to me.And you have a very nice discussion about sunscreen lotion and sunscreen spray within your article .I hope that after reading your article article, many will understand the difference and will share their experiences with you very soon.

  20. Rodarrick

    Yeah! I totally agree with you that lotion is better than spray when it comes to the sunscreen debate. Lotion can reach out to every inch part of the body that spray cannot. Besides, the right amount of application is also done with lotion since proper care is taken before application. However, spray is just rough spreading that in most cases may not take the right amount to be concentrated in specific areas. Thanks

  21. Darnell Yeldon

    Great information, when it’s summer time people want to be outside swimming or at the beach which means you have to take care of your skin definitely women because of the swim suits. Me personally I have never used sunscreen and I use lotion sometimes because it dry my skin out so I use baby oil something that will keep my skin looking and feeling good!

  22. Imelda

    Perfectly timed article advising the difference between sunscreens and lotions as the sun starts to shine and certainly here in the UK we have recorded the hottest Spring ever. 

    The information that you have provided is really important and one that we fail to realise when we are younger. I always protect my skin with sunscreen and I only wished that id did more when I was younger as I now have those liver spots. I always ensure that I use a minimum of 30 and I feel that my tan is usually a lot healthier and my skin feels better. 

    I have found out some information which is key for me regarding Sun Sprays because I always rub the cream in so now I know that I do not have too, and just need to ensure I spray enough. This is really useful for me as to apply regularly you want to be able to do yourself most of the time and the back is always tricky to do with lotions. 

    Thank you so much

  23. Samantha

    Ever since I got to know that sunscreens are even available in the spry form, I was keen on buying it. I thought it will be much easier to get it on as compared to the sunscreen lotion. But after reading this blog, I think I am going to stick to the original sunscreen lotion itself. Some very good differences between the two have been highlighted here. Though spray may be easy to apply, the coverage is less like it is mentioned here. I like how informative this article is and it actually helps you decide amongst the two, unlike many other reviews which don’t give a very good conclusion. I really liked reading this one. A very good review for sure.

  24. edahnewton1

    Hey nice article you have there, your thoughts on the two products is indeed valuable. sunscreen product acts like a very thin bulletproof vest, stopping the UV photons before they can reach the skin and inflict damage. I have been using the sunscreen lotion for sometime now, and it has proven to be more effective and has value for money  to me. Keep the good work

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