Let’s be honest, folks: sometimes it can be tough to do the things we know are good for us. If you aren’t used to wearing sunscreen every day, it can be tough to make the decision to invest in your health and add a new aspect to your skincare routine.
If you’ve always worn sunscreen but are used to the (ahem, excuse my language) terrible chemical formulas and continuous sprays that even the FDA is worried about, it can be hard to make the switch to higher-quality mineral-only lotion sunscreens.
Like any other major change, there’s two ways to go about it. The method you choose depends entirely on your personality as they both work out in the end. You can go ‘cold turkey’ and change out all your sunscreen products in one fell swoop, or you can dip your toes in the water, slowly transitioning to better products.
This guide is for those of you who like to test the waters a bit before jumping in. If you aren’t quite ready to let go of your easy to spray sunscreens just yet, but want to get the ball rolling, then take a look at the options for some great transitional spray formulas to tide you over until you’re ready to take the big leap. (If you want to jump a little further ahead, take a look at stick sunscreen.)
After thorough research into requirements for spray sunscreens to be effective, SimplySunSafe recommends All Terrain AquaSport Spray SPF 30 as the best spray sunscreen. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 spray sunscreens.
To ensure the spray sunscreen you choose provides safe and effective sun protection, check for the following must-have features:
Broad spectrum protection
When you’re looking at different sunscreen options while searching for a good transitional sun spray, it’s important to choose one that offers broad spectrum protection. Usually, products that offer this level of protection will have a logo on the packaging somewhere that reads ‘UVA/UVB Protection’ or ‘Broad Spectrum’.
While you may be tempted to forego this feature when purchasing sunscreen, especially if you are only using a spray sunscreen to help you transition to healthier options for your family, it really is crucial in order to give yourself and your loved ones reliable protection.
Though the warmth of a strong summer sun may be just the ticket to enjoying your perfect beach day, the invisible radiation that comes with it is definitely something you want to avoid. There are two types of solar radiation that can cause us harm. These are typically referred at as UVA radiation and UVB radiation.
UVB radiation is the type that is responsible for easily visible skin damage. It causes tans; it also causes the angry, red, blistery patches we call a sunburn. UVA radiation is much more dangerous – and harder to spot, too. This type of radiation causes invisible damage to the DNA of your skin cells. Over time this damage can result in irreparable genetic mutation, premature skin aging, and has the potential to eventually result in skin cancer.
You can more easily remember the difference between the two types of radiation based on the last letter of their names: B is for burning and A is for aging. Both types are all harm and no benefit, so make sure you choose a sunscreen that provides total protection from these damaging aspects of the sun’s rays.
Best spray sunscreen SPF
Another important aspect to consider when choosing the best sunscreen possible is the stated SPF rating. Many consumers understand that this number is important and that they ought to pay attention to it, but you may be surprised to learn that it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think.
The most basic explanation is that SPF ratings are a measure of how much a given product is going to protect your skin from sun damage. However, that isn’t the whole story. SPF ratings only refer to the amount of UVB protection a product offers.
This is because active ingredients in sunscreen formulations do not protect from UVA and UVB radiation equally. In fact, compared to the UVB protection offered by their stated SPF rating, most sunscreens only offer about one third the amount of UVA protection.
Upon hearing this, many people will want to grab the absolute highest SPF rated products they can find, thinking that the premium price tag comes with premium protection. Due to the way SPF ratings work and the limitations of topical formulas, however, this will only end up wasting your money in the end.
Take a look at the table below for a clearer picture of the amount of protection you can expect to receive from various SPF ratings.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
As you can see, once you go beyond SPF 30, you really aren’t getting that much more protection as the SPF rating continues to climb. When you couple that with the fact that most sunscreens are only effective for a few hours at best, it typically isn’t worth it to pay the extra few dollars for an SPF 50 or above product.
Dermatologists suggest that SPF 30 is generally sufficient protection for most people, and you’ll only want to seek out higher SPF products if you are very fair or particularly photosensitive.
Physical is better than chemical
Once you’ve begun narrowing down your selection of possible purchase options based on protection quality and SPF rating, take a moment to consider the active ingredients used. Active ingredients in sunscreen formulations are typically categorized as either physical or chemical sunscreens. Whenever possible, you’ll want to go with a physical sunscreen.
The two physical sunscreen ingredients you’ll see are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Zinc is the ingredient commonly associated with the ‘white paste’ look popularized by shows like Baywatch. As you transition from harsher chemical sunscreens to more natural options, you may have to adjust a little bit to the tendency of these ingredients to leave a white cast on the skin.
This can be offset by using tinted formulas, though the effect is not always noticeable on lighter skin tones. While you may need to take an extra moment or two to rub them in, physical sunscreens work immediately (no wait time before going outside like there is with chemical formulas) and typically provide better protection.
Chemical sunscreens usually use a combination of a few different ingredients. These may include avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. Rather than sitting on top of the skin and acting as a barrier like physical sunscreens, these chemical ingredients actually soak down into the skin and absorb the sun’s radiation before it can damage skin cells.
As a byproduct of the way that chemical sunscreens work, they need to be applied about twenty minutes before sun exposure. Whenever possible, it is beneficial to avoid these ingredients, as they are shown to trigger skin allergies or sensitivities with repeated use.
When using a spray sunscreen, it can be really helpful to choose an option that is water resistant to help maintain sun protection. Even a good sunscreen is only going to be effective when used properly. This typically means ensuring that you get a heavy coat of product on your skin and that it’s used under optimal conditions.
Too much heat, sweating, or exposure to water can greatly reduce the effectiveness of these products. With most people getting the greatest use out of their spray sunscreens during the summer months or when spending a lot of time in/around the water, making sure that you have a dependable water resistant product can help give you peace of mind that you are actually getting the protection you paid for.
Today, sunscreens are rated as water resistant for either 40 or 80 minutes. Of course 80 minutes of water resistance is ideal as this will carry you to the next time you’ll need to reapply. However, if you cannot find a suitable 80-minute option then a 40-minute sunscreen will also be helpful.
Usually, when selecting a sunscreen, you want to choose a product that is as matte or invisible a finish as possible. With spray sunscreen options, I actually recommend the opposite. To help combat uneven applications and insufficiently thick coats on the skin, choosing a sunscreen with a readily visible formula can make a big difference in ensuring even coverage.
It may not be the most subtle look, choosing a sunscreen with lots of shine or a noticeable white cast. However, it sure beats a sunburn or melanoma down the road. If you have to use sprays sunscreens to aid in your transition to healthier products, try to actively seek out these heavier, easy to see (and apply) formulas.
The extra peace of mind you’ll get is definitely worth it. This way, as you spray the sunscreen onto your skin, you’ll be able to tell exactly where it has and has not been applied, and you’ll be more easily able to ensure that you’re putting the product on in an adequately thick layer.
Best Spray Sunscreen Comparison
|All Terrain AquaSport||Goddess Garden Kids Sport||Goddess Garden Everyday||Kiss My Face Mineral Sun||MD Solar Sciences Quick Dry|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (19%)||Zinc Oxide (6.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.4%)||Zinc Oxide (6.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.4%)||Zinc Oxide (6.0%) & Titanium Dioxide (6.0%)||Avobenzone (3%), Octisalate (5%) & Octocrylene (2.75%)|
|Water resistance||80 Minutes||80 Minutes||40 Minutes||40 Minutes||80 Minutes|
5 Best Spray Sunscreens
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, and participating in skincare forums, SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best spray sunscreens. All of the sunscreens provide broad spectrum protection of SPF 30 or greater, do not contain oxybenzone, are rated as water resistant for 40-80 minutes, and have a finish that makes them easy to apply.
All Terrain AquaSport Spray sunscreen provides broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 with just one active ingredient: 19% zinc oxide. This is, overall, an extremely high quality sunscreen.
It was given a rating of 3 by the EWG, only because their rating system takes into account that physical sunscreen ingredients may be more dangerous when inhaled from sprays.
However, the high concentration of only physical active ingredients gives you confidence that you are getting high quality protection. This is also a good option from the point of view of transitioning to the safest sunscreen on the market – you will still get the convenience of a spray but will also be able to start adjusting to the thickness of mineral formulas and the rubbing they require.
It’s also rated to 80 minutes of water resistance, giving you lots of carefree playtime before you’ll need to reapply.
- High concentration of active ingredients
- 80 minutes water resistant
- Needs to be rubbed in after spraying
Goddess Garden has a great line of continuous spray sunscreen formulations, and this Kids Sport spray sunscreen is no exception. It provides you broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using a combination of zinc oxide (6.0%) and titanium dioxide (6.4%).
During the initial application, the spray appears white and opaque which makes it super easy to ensure you’ve covered all exposed skin. Once you get it sprayed on, a little bit of rubbing will dissipate the white cast to a more manageable level.
Specifically designed as a sport sunscreen, this product features 80 minutes of water resistance, giving you robust protection that will stand up to even your most active summer days.
Goddess Garden missed out on a first place spotlight in this list simply because the top product had a much higher concentration of active ingredient.
If you’re looking specifically for a young child, check out our pick for the best kids sunscreen.
- Easy application
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
If you are looking for something a little bit lighter and more suited to everyday use than the Goddess Garden Kids Sport option, check out this Everyday Spray sunscreen from the same company.
It only features 40 minutes of water resistance compared to the 80 minutes offered by the sport formula, but is still a solid choice for a transitional spray sunscreen.
This product offers broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 with same active ingredients as the sport formula: zinc oxide (6%) and titanium dioxide (6.4%).
Similarly to the sport formula, the product does spray in a thicker white layer, and rubbing is required to offset this effect.
However, this is not as pronounced as with the tougher sport formula so if you want a product for everyday rather than high-intensity outdoor play then this is a great option.
- Suited to everyday use
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
This is a newer product from Kiss My Face. They recently changed the formula to include all-mineral active ingredients in an effort to clean up their product line.
Please note: As a result of this change you may come across a few unpleasant reviews regarding the texture of the lotion. I checked into these and they all seem to be from consumers who purchased the previous chemical formulation and were not expecting the texture changes that are normal when switching to a mineral sunscreen.
Don’t let these worry you too much, just remember that it’s all part of the transition to safer skincare!
Kiss My Face delivers high quality broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 using 6% each of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. This bottle is not continuous spray, though the formula is very thin so application should still be fairly simple.
It is water resistant for 40 minutes. Coupled with the thinner formula this makes it a good daily sunscreen option.
- Good for everyday use
- New mineral-only formula
- Lower concentration of active ingredients
Now, if you absolutely cannot stand an all-mineral sunscreen as the first phase in your transition to healthier options, at least try to pick a better-for-you chemical sunscreen that has an innocuous EWG rating.
This particular product from MDSolarSciences rates a 3, and while better than most commercial spray sunscreens, it will provide you better quality protection while maintaining that familiar feel on your skin.
This product provides broad spectrum, SPF 40 protection through a combination of avobenzone (3%), octisalate (5%), and octocrylene (2.75%).
This sunscreen doesn’t contain oxybenzone so while physical sunscreens are preferable, this spray sunscreen formula is a good start in the right direction if you just aren’t yet ready to let go of the easy chemical formulas.
It is also rated for 80 minutes, with a non-greasy formula that can go from active play to relaxed picnic without leaving you with that tell-tale shiny ‘sunscreen grease’ look.
- Chemical ingredients
If you are just starting to educate yourself about what goes into our sunscreens, and were at a loss for how to take that first step in a healthier direction for you or your family, I hope that this guide has been useful to you. I hope that you’ve found some helpful products and information to find your best sunscreen for everyday use.
While SimplySunSafe does recommend the All Terrain AquaSport Spray SPF 30 as the best spray sunscreen, all of these products are wonderful choices. However, it is important to keep in mind that everyone’s preference are different and so you may have to try a few different options before you find your favorite.
Do you already have a favorite spray sunscreen product? If you don’t see it here, let me know! I love learning about new products so that I can continue to provide you with recommendations for high quality, reliable products.