Don’t be caught empty-handed before your next beach trip.
How many times have you been stocking up on all the necessities for your next beach trip or tropical getaway, and found yourself wondering if you should go with a lotion or spray sunscreen?
While lotions seem to be the safest bet—the infamous white cast allows you to see where you’ve already slathered it, so you don’t miss a spot—sunscreen sprays are preferred by many because they’re easy to apply, are less messy than creams, and help cover those hard-to-reach places, like your back.
The downside? While most of us want to believe we know how to apply sunscreen correctly, more of the product often ends up in the air than on our skin. This sub-par application can increase your risk of sunburn and exposure to ultraviolet radiation, explains Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology.
In order for these sprays to be effective, you have to make sure you’re picking the best ones and using them properly. Choose sunscreen sprays labeled ‘broad spectrum,’ which shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, and select those with high SPF levels (at least SPF 30), Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells Health.
Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, also recommends looking for options that are more water-resistant (80 minutes of water resistance is better than 40, for example), and contain zinc oxide. And you may have seen the dual sunscreen and bug spray products that promise to minimize packing on hiking or camping trips by offering a two-in-one spray—but Dr. Jaliman actually recommends against these because the combination can decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen by 40%. Yikes.
It’s also important to consider how you’re applying sunscreen. Dr. Zeichner advises holding the can or bottle one inch from your skin and spraying until it glistens. As for your face, spray sunscreen into your hand first and then gently rub it over your face and ears (this will reduce your risk of inhalation of any gases or propellants), he adds.
Ready for the best sunscreen sprays that dermatologists can’t get enough of? Here, nine options that will protect you—and give you peace of mind—during your next outdoor adventure.
COOLA Mineral Sunscreen Spray SPF 30
Dr. Jaliman is a fan of this sheer, matte-finish mineral body sunscreen spray, which provides chemical-free sun protection—thanks to 14.5% of zinc oxide in the formula—and moisturizes and soothes skin with shea butter, glycerin, and aloe while you’re in the sun.
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Lightweight Sunscreen Spray, SPF 100+
Effective and affordable, this oil-free, non-comedogenic (read: won’t clog your pores) sunscreen spray comes highly-recommended by Dr. Zeichner because it provides ultra-high SPF protection. He also likes that the cannister’s technology allows the sunscreen to be applied to the skin at any angle—even upside down—for those hard-to-reach places, like the backside of your legs.
Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Spray
Dr. Nazarian’s top choice, this sunscreen is safe enough for beach outings since it features SPF 50, but is also light enough to be used on your hair as well as your skin. This way, you can protect your scalp and strands without making them feel greasy—so you can head straight to happy hour after a day at the beach.
Sun Bum Original Moisturizing Sunscreen Spray
This hypoallergenic, broad spectrum sunscreen spray has Dr. Nazarian’s stamp of approval since it not only protects against UVA and UVB rays, but it’s also non-comedogenic so it won’t clog pores. A great option for oily and sensitive skin, it even contains vitamin E to keep wrinkles and fine lines at bay while you’re lounging poolside.
Babo Botanicals Sheer Zinc Continuous Spray
Another favorite of Dr. Jaliman, this baby-friendly, zinc oxide spray is free of fragrance and chemicals, and moisturizes and protects your skin with organic shea butter, avocado oil, and jojoba oil. Plus, it’s water-resistant for 80 minutes, meaning it won’t come off while you sweat it out on a hike or during a game of beach volleyball.
Supergoop 100% Mineral Sunscreen Mist
If you have skin prone to irritation, stick to sunscreens that only contain mineral-blocking ingredients, like this option from Supergoop, advises Dr. Zeichner. This non-aerosol, broad spectrum spray sunscreen boasts zinc oxide to protect skin from the sun, along with antioxidants and aloe vera to soothe skin and prevent damage from environmental aggressors.
Elta MD Aero Sunscreen
A cult-favorite sunscreen brand that’s often recommended by dermatologists, this broad spectrum, zinc oxide spray with SPF 45 appears white when you first apply it to skin, but dries clear—so you can see exactly where you applied it—and leaves no annoying ghost-like cast behind, says Dr. Nazarian.
Alba Botanica Sensitive Sunscreen
Designed for sensitive skin, this broad spectrum sunscreen spray with SPF 50 is made of natural, environmentally-friendly ingredients and offers high-quality sun protection, notes Dr. Zeichner. Bonus: It’s free of fragrance, so it won’t be irritating if you accidentally inhale some (hey, it happens), adds Dr. Nazarian.