What is Sunscreen Spray?

Sunscreen spray is applied to the skin from a convenient spray bottle to protect the skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. Sometimes referred to as sunblock, sunscreen spray is easier to apply than lotion because it can be sprayed on hard-to-reach areas like the shoulder blades and back. Many doctors recommend sunscreen for those who spend time outdoors, especially during peak hours of 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., when the high angle of the sun allows more UV rays to penetrate the earth’s protective atmosphere.

There are two types of UV rays that can cause skin damage and skin cancer: UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate car windows and other glass, and pass deeper into the epidermis than UVB rays. UVB rays, which can be blocked by glass, affect the upper layers of skin and are responsible for much of the initial burning that occurs when skin is unprotected. Not all sunscreens block both types of rays, so when shopping for sunscreen spray, check for the words “broad spectrum” to indicate full protection.

Sunscreen products are rated by a sun protection factor (SPF). The SPF on available products generally ranges from 2 to 45 or higher. This number is used in combination with the UV rating given in the local weather report.

The UV rating indicates how long it will take on average for unprotected skin to begin to burn. If the UV rating is ten minutes on a given day, a sunscreen spray with an SPF of 2 should allow a person to remain in the sun twice as long before burning, or 20 minutes. If the UV rating that day is 20 minutes, an SPF of 2 should allow a sunbather 40 minutes of exposure before burning.

While those with a good base tan and little exposure might choose a low SPF, for adequate protection or long hours in the sun, a much higher SPF is recommended. This is especially true for those with fairer skin. In this case, a broad spectrum sunscreen spray with an SPF of 30 might be a better choice. If the weather report indicates a UV rating of ten minutes, this should allow 300 minutes or 5 hours of sun exposure without burning, though reapplication may be necessary during this period.

A sunscreen spray can be “water resistant” or “waterproof.” A water resistant sunscreen spray may stay on through light perspiration, while a waterproof sunscreen spray should stay on even after swimming. However, product directions usually call for reapplication after swimming or toweling off.

Most sunscreen products are not recommended for babies. Limiting exposure time and providing light-colored clothing and shade are preferable. UV rays are intensified by reflective surface like the ocean, light sand beaches, and pools. When applying a sunscreen spray or other sunblock products, be sure to cover areas like the ears, throat, back of the neck, and tops of the feet.

Follow product directions for maximum benefit. Applying too little sunscreen spray will not provide the advertised protection. Some people may be allergic to ingredients in these products.


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