Even clean the convenience of spray sunscreens, as far as we are concerned, all minerals are not worth the risk. “Small spray particles can penetrate the lungs deeply and cause irreversible damage,”,” says Danny, the vice president of healthy living science at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., that assesses the health effects of chemical exposure from day-to-day products.
Even titanium dioxide, inert and harmless on the surface of the skin is toxic if inhaled. If inhaled, it is considered by the International Agency of Research for Cancer to be a possible carcinogen. (Research is inconclusive about the long-term effects of breathing in zinc oxide, the other option in mineral SPF.) So even clean physical sunscreens aren’t safe if they’re sprays.
Fortunately, clean, mineral-only SPF lotions, balms, creams, and sticks are benefiting from the new tech that makes putting them on (even on squirming children) a whole lot easier.
For safe sun protection, Leiba and EWG advise using only nonspray, clean, non-toxic, mineral SPF formulas. Clean SPF also does not, of course, include the laundry list of potentially hormone-disrupting, annoying, coral-killing substances that chemical sunscreens can and can legally do. (You can gauge whether mineral sunscreen is purely mineral by checking the active ingredients box; it should list zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide only.
But even beyond those health concerns, sprays can be a less-reliable barrier against UV rays, since it’s harder to assess how much you’re getting onto your skin (versus losing to the wind). “We suggest no sunscreens spray,” says Danny.