While preference plays a part when choosing a sunscreen, there are a few musts. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), sunscreen should be water-resistant, broad-spectrum, and SPF 30 or greater. Outside of these criteria, you can decide what works best for you.

You might find that the right sunscreen depends on the moment. For example, spray sunscreens can come in handy for covering your kiddos or getting hard-to-reach places like your back. But it's important to know how to apply spray sunscreen for optimal skin coverage. For example, do you have to rub in spray sunscreen? Read on to learn how to use spray sunscreen like a pro.

How to Apply Spray Sunscreen

The average adult needs about one ounce of sunscreen for full body coverage, but it's not so easy to keep track when using a spray sunscreen. Dermatologists from the AAD recommend the following tips to apply spray sunscreen:

Burnt female skin in the sun. Young body burnt by the sun. Woman

Hold the Nozzle Close to Your Skin

Leave about an inch of space between the nozzle and your skin. Continuously spray your skin for several seconds or until your skin glistens. For best results, do this about 15 minutes before sun exposure.

Remember Tricky Areas

The tops of your feet, back of your neck, and hands are often missed, leaving them vulnerable to the sun's rays.

Avoid Applying It Directly to Your Face

Sunscreen isn't meant to be inhaled or ingested. Use another type of sunscreen, like a lotion or EltaMD UV Stick Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+, on your face, ears, and scalp. You can also spray the sunscreen on your hands first and apply it from there.

Rub It In to Ensure Even Coverage

One of the perks of using a spray sunscreen is that you can quickly spray it and move on. One of the downsides, however, is that it's not as reliable as sunscreen lotion if you don't rub it in. Rubbing in spray sunscreen is important to ensure every inch of your skin is protected from sun damage.

Reapply as Needed

The general rule of thumb is to reapply sunscreen every two hours, but you may need to reapply more frequently if swimming or sweating.

Spray Sunscreen Safety Tips

When used as directed, spray sunscreen is a great way to stay protected from the sun. But there are a few things to consider when learning how to apply spray sunscreen safely and effectively.

First, if you're applying sunscreen outdoors, reserve your spray bottle for calm days. Windy weather can make your sunscreen less likely to end up on your skin and more likely to end up wasted in the breeze (or in your eyes). If you do get sunscreen in your eyes, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends flushing them with water.

Spray sunscreens also don't mix with open flames. Aerosol sprays can be flammable, so don't use this type of sunscreen around lit cigarettes, grills, or bonfires.

The Skinny on Spray Sunscreen Effectiveness

Research shows that spray sunscreens are increasing in popularity and are predicted to become more favored than sunscreen lotions. They may be a fan favorite, but do they work? When used correctly, yes. EltaMD UV Aox Mist is a reimagined sunscreen spray that is 100% mineral, enchriched with antioxidants, lightweight and water-resistant that is air-powered meaning there are no chemical propellants.

Studies show spray sunscreens are just as effective as sunscreen lotions when applied properly. Ironically, many people prefer spray formulations because they're easy to use but don't use them correctly. So apply liberally (until your skin glistens), work your sunscreen into your skin, and enjoy your time in the sun!


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.