The magazine Consumer Reports is advising parents to avoid using spray-on sunscreen on children until the Food and Drug Administration completes an ongoing investigation into whether the sprays are safe for kids.
“Of particular concern to us is the possibility that people might accidentally breathe in the ingredients, a risk that’s greatest in children, who — as any parent knows — are more likely to squirm around when they’re being sprayed,” the magazine says.
The magazine has also removed a sunscreen spray — Ocean Potion Kids Instant Dry Mist SPF 50 — from its list of recommended sunscreens in its sunscreen Ratings, because the product is marketed especially for children.
“We now say that until the FDA completes its analysis, the products should generally not be used by or on children,” Consumer Reports says.
The FDA announced it was studying spray sunscreen several years ago to determine whether it can be harmful when inhaled unintentionally. The agency has not yet released its determinations.
Here are Consumer Reports’ spray sunscreen tips:
– Don’t use sprays on children, unless you have no other product available. In that case, spray the sunscreen onto your hands and rub it on. As with all sunscreens, be especially careful on the face, taking care to avoid the eyes and mouth.
– Adults can still use sprays — but don’t spray your face. Instead, spray on your hands and rub it on, making sure to avoid your eyes and mouth. And try to avoid inhaling it.
– Make sure you apply enough. Consumer Reports’ says its tests have found that sprays can work well when used properly — but it is harder to make sure that you apply enough, especially when it’s windy. The magazine recommends spraying as much as can be evenly applied, and then repeating, just to be safe. On windy days, you might want to spray the sunscreen on your hands and rub it on — or just choose a recommended lotion instead.
USA Today notes that some people may find the new sunscreen warnings difficult to swallow.
An informal poll on a Florida beach found that seven out of 10 parents used spray-on sunscreens for their kids.
Dad Spence Crimmins from Jacksonville Beach, told USA Today he uses it on his children because it “goes on smooth and doesn’t leave a thick residue.”
And many people like the convenience of spray sunscreen.
Sun exposure without protection is linked to skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with more than 3.5 million cases diagnosed every year, WebMD reports.
Consumer Reports has said in the past that the benefits of sunscreens outweigh potential risks from their ingredients. But some animal studies have raised concerns about what’s in certain sunscreens.
Some products containing the active ingredients titanium dioxide and zinc oxide may contain nanoparticles. These compounds have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animals, Consumer Reports reports.
The Environmental Working Group reports the cosmetics industry uses nano-scale ingredients routinely, even though exposures and potential risks are poorly understood. The non-profit is calling on the FDA to “establish, through a public process, a definition for adequate substantiation of safety for cosmetic ingredients, including nano-scale materials.”
Other sunscreen risks
Retinoids, part of the vitamin A family and an inactive ingredient in some sunscreens, have caused an increase in skin cancers in mice. There’s also a risk of birth defects in people taking oral acne medications containing retinoids, though they differ from the retinoids in sunscreens.
“As a precaution, pregnant women may want to choose a sunscreen without the ingredient retinol palmitate or retinal palmitate,” Consumer Reports says.
The American Academy of Dermatology has advised people to spray sunscreen on hands first, and then spread on the body – and to never spray around the face and mouth.