Not All Sunscreen Sprays Are Created Equal—The Only 15 Derms Will Touch
If you ask me, spray sunscreen is undeniably the easiest way to apply sunscreen. I’m an inherently lazy person, so spreading on yet another cream can sometimes feel like a big ask. I’m also incredibly pale, however, so I can never leave the house without sun protection—particularly when I’m still wearing shorts, tank tops, and dresses. Spray sunscreen often feels like the easiest option, but it’s definitely polarizing in the beauty industry.
“In general, spray sunscreens give less consistent results than their lotion or cream counterparts,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “Spray is more likely to go into the air and not on your skin, especially because we often do not rub them in. More spots are missed when applying a spray sunscreen, in general.”
Are Spray Sunscreens Safe?
It’s definitely true that spray sunscreen can lead to patchier protection, as I’ve seen it myself. Many people are also uneasy by the fact that the carcinogen benzene was found in at least 15 popular spray sunscreens recently, prompting brands to pull them from the shelves. “I want to emphasize that this recall should not deter you from using sunscreen,” says Mike Huffstetler, CEO, and Co-Founder of Bask Suncare. He emphasizes that benzene is not an inherent part of spray sunscreens, and it’s actually a contaminant that gets in at some point in the manufacturing process.
If you’re worried about benzene contamination, Huffstetler recommends that you make sure the sunscreen you’re buying regularly tests for benzenes. He also advises opting for sunscreens without chemical propellants. “To aerosolize a sunscreen spray, typically manufacturers will mix in a petroleum-derived aerosolizing agent—AKA a chemical propellant—with the SPF formula,” Huffstetler says. “Since this creates an inherently increased risk for benzene contamination, it’s simply best to avoid them altogether.”
How to Apply Spray Sunscreens
Plenty of spray sunscreens that are both safe and effective exist on the market right now. Here’s the thing about spray sunscreen, though—it’s all in the application. “According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one should hold the nozzle close to the skin and spray generously,” says Gohara. “Spray until the skin glistens.”
Gohara notes that one container of spray sunscreen should last about six applications, so if your spray bottle is lasting you a really long time, you may be applying too little. Gohara also says you should rub your spray sunscreen in thoroughly to make sure you don’t miss any spots. Always avoid inhaling, applying in heavy winds, or applying near smoke or flames. Be sure to reapply regularly—that means at least every two hours.
If you want to really ensure protection, Huffstetler has a pro tip. “Layering is caring,” he says. “Especially helpful with kids and on the go. I like to start with a base layer of lotion, and then dedicate my spray to reapplication throughout the day.” This is also a good way to treat face sunscreens—it’s best to start with a lotion base and refresh with spray throughout the day, particularly if you’re wearing makeup. See below for our absolute favorite spray sunscreens (that really work!).
The best body sunscreen sprays:
"I like this mineral spray because it blends in to all skin tones, and minimizes irritation with its natural ingredients," says Gohara. Its natural, skin-soothing ingredients include aloe, jojoba, and sunflower.
Bask definitely makes one of the best spray sunscreens on the market, and it’s thanks to its unique vacuum technology that makes the spray work from every angle, so you can get hard to reach spots. This also means that the formula isn’t mixed with any aerosol agent, so it’s just pure sunscreen.
Supergoop! Play sunscreen is relatively affordable, easy to use, and feels comfortable (never greasy) on the skin. It can be sprayed from any angle, and it’s even effective to use on wet skin. Plus, it’s infused with vitamin C for an antioxidant boost.
Water-resistant and super lightweight, this sunscreen is hard to beat for just $10. It’s also formulated with coconut extract, shea butter, and avocado oil to nourish skin as it defends from harsh rays.
This clear sunscreen spray sinks into the skin instantly and packs a punch against UV rays. It’s also filled with skin-friendly ingredients like vitamin E, goji berries, and raspberry extract.
This non-aerosol spray feels light on skin and sinks in easily. It’s infused with vitamin C and Indian gooseberries, so your skin isn’t just protected from the sun—it’s also brightened and nourished.
Let me introduce you to the best-smelling sunscreen you’ve ever used. This spray formula smells like pool water, Lycra, and nostalgia, and every time I use it, I get compliments on its scent. It’s also good for your skin, as it’s filled with ingredients like shea oil, coconut oil, and vitamin E.
This sunscreen does all the work of a high-quality body lotion. It’s blended with hyaluronic acid to keep skin plump, algae extracts and green tea to protect from environmental damage, and aloe vera to soothe skin.
This sunscreen has nearly 3500 glowing reviews on Amazon, and for good reason. The classic sunscreen brand’s spray formula feels so light that it’s almost like you’re not wearing sunscreen, but it also does double-duty to nourish and moisturize skin.
This piña-colada scented spray is basically vacation in a bottle. It also has a blend of skin-friendly ingredients—raspberry seed oil, buriti oil, meadowfoam seed oil, and prickly pear extract—to defend the skin from free radicals and provide nourishment.
Formulated with anti-aging and moisturizing ingredients, this sunscreen fits perfectly into an active lifestyle. It’s also water-resistant and reef-safe.
The best face sunscreen sprays:
This spray sunscreen is the ultimate multitasker, as it works for both the face and body. It keeps skin soft while keeping it protected and it’s also sand-proof, so beach time is encouraged.
As far as spray face sunscreens go, this one feels more like face mist than sunscreen. Its light cucumber scent and ultra-fine mist are incredibly refreshing, and it sprays so well over makeup.
Not only does this spray give you a burst of SPF protection, but it also works to reset your makeup. It has a matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about getting too shiny throughout the day.
Since this spray sunscreen is only SPF 18, we recommend using it if you have a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 as a base. It’s great for refreshing your protection and hydrating.