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The Dark Side of Sun Protection: The Negative Effects of Aerosol Sunscreen

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Kacey Moe



Since we’re on the topic of common products on the market that can cause or exacerbate allergies, I want to talk about sunscreen.  With summer just a few weeks away and many already starting summer vacation, I imagine that sunscreen will be applied liberally for the next couple of months, so here are some things to consider!

Sunscreen is definitely a crucial part of our daily skincare routine, as it protects us from harmful UV rays, reduces the risk of skin cancer and keeps us from looking like a red lobster!  

But when you’re on the hunt for the right sunscreen for you and your family, please steer away from aerosol.  

While aerosol sunscreens are easy to apply and dry quickly, there are 3 potential harmful effects on both people and the environment. 


One of the most significant issues with aerosol sunscreen is the risk of inhalation. When sprayed, these sunscreens release fine particles into the air, and if inhaled, these particles can lead to respiratory problems, like:

  • Lung Irritation: The fine mist can irritate the lining of the lungs, leading to coughing and discomfort.
  • Asthma Exacerbation: For individuals with asthma or other respiratory conditions, inhaling aerosol sunscreen can trigger asthma attacks and other respiratory issues.
  • Potential Toxicity: Some aerosol sunscreens contain chemicals such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are safe on the skin but can be harmful if inhaled. These particles can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in lung tissues.


  • Skin Irritation: The propellants used in aerosol sunscreens can be irritating to sensitive skin, leading to redness, itching, and rashes.
  • Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may experience allergic reactions to the chemicals and fragrances used in aerosol sunscreens.


  • Air Pollution: The propellants used in most aerosol sunscreens include hydrocarbons and compressed gases that contribute to air pollution and climate change. 
  • Ocean Pollution: When aerosol sunscreen is washed off in the ocean, it can contribute to water pollution and harm marine life. Chemicals, such as oxybenzone and octinoxate, are known to cause coral bleaching and disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

How to Reduce Risks

To minimize the negative effects of aerosol sunscreen, consider this:

  1. Choose Lotion-Based Sunscreens: Opt for lotion or cream sunscreens, which provide better coverage and eliminate the risk of inhalation and flammability.
  2. Apply in Well-Ventilated Areas: If you must use aerosol sunscreen, apply it outdoors or in a well-ventilated space to reduce inhalation risks.
  3. Avoid Face Application: Never spray aerosol sunscreen directly on your face. Instead, spray it onto your hands and then apply it to your face.
  4. Check Ingredients: Look for sunscreens with safe and environmentally friendly ingredients. Avoid those containing oxybenzone and octinoxate to protect marine life.
  5. Proper Disposal: Dispose of empty aerosol sunscreen cans properly to minimize environmental impact.

Kacey Moe

MS Holistic Nutrition

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