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?
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.
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.
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
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.