FDA investigating potential spray-on sunscreen risks

Spray-on sunscreen has become just as common in the beach bags of moms everywhere as the beach towel and the sunglasses. But the FDA is now taking a closer look at these sprays, in particular the potential risks that may be associated with using them on small children.

Love it or hate it, spray sunscreen has been around long enough now that most moms have bought at least a few bottles. And now that we’ve all been using it on our kids — or just inhaling the over-spray at the pool — the FDA is investigating whether spray sunscreens carry risks when used on younger kids.

What are the risks?

Using sunscreen on your kids to protect them from the damaging rays of the sun seems like a good choice, right? It turns out that protecting little ones from sun damage and potential skin cancer with spray-on sunscreens may not be the best choice after all. While the FDA is investigating, Consumer Reports has reportedly made the move to take sprays off their recommended list until further findings are made available. The concern is that small children may not fully close their eyes and mouth and inhale the sunscreen as it’s being sprayed. While these spray-on formulas have been tested on skin, we don’t yet know what the effects of inhaling the spray might be, especially on young children.

“Anything you put in the body has the potential for side effects,” says pediatrician Dr. Jeffery Simon. “The question there is what’s bad about it? Is it chemicals directly, or is it the fact that the chemicals irritate the lungs, the spray, can it trigger asthma attacks?” The irony is that most mothers of energetic and wiggly toddlers have a difficult enough time applying sunscreen to their little bundles of energy — and spray-on sunscreen has been a blessing. Now it appears that the very age group that has made spray-on sunscreen popular is the group that it may harm.

Real moms sound off

What do moms have to say about the news that the FDA is investigating what many considered a breakthrough in sun safety and convenience? Many have complained about moms spraying the heck out of their kids at the pool or beach, as the mist wafts right into their neighbor’s faces. “Every year during swim team practice, it’s the same thing. That ‘one mom’ insists on spraying all three of her kids in a row, using almost a whole bottle of spray sunscreen every time,” shares one mom of two little girls. “Everyone around is gagging and coughing, but she doesn’t get it. Maybe now she will stop being so lazy and actually slather some lotion on her kids?” It is pretty hard to spray the sunscreen and only get it on your kids or yourself. All it takes is a gust of wind and you’ve alienated all the swim team moms.

But many moms enjoy the convenience of the spray, and won’t give it up without a fight. “Good lord. I read that and nearly passed out,” says Nichole, mother of two. “Putting regular sunscreen lotion on my kids is like giving an eel a massage.” I myself have been a fan of the spray sunscreen for years, because it takes the awkwardness out of spraying older kids. I can spray my daughter’s back and I’m not actually touching her, which is a big plus for the teen crowd. “A family member used one [spray sunscreen] on her kids and I thought it was brilliant, then I looked it up later and found out that it’s some of the worst you can get for your kiddos,” shares Monica, mother of four. “Too bad, really, because applying sunscreen is super annoying,” she admits.

What do we do now?

This leaves parents wondering what to do with those bottles of spray-on sunscreen in their beach bags. You can still use spray versions of your favorite sunscreen on adults and older children, as the warning relates to young kids who may not close their mouth or eyes properly. As an alternative, you can spray the sunscreen on your hands and then apply to your child so he or she isn’t inhaling the mist directly. And until the FDA releases their findings, there will continue to be two camps at the swimming pool — the sprayers, and the non-sprayers.

More about sun protection

How to find sunscreen that won’t hurt your kids
Should kids wear sunglasses?
Beach survival kit for Baby