Spray-on Sunscreen Warnings for Kids: FDA Investigates Safety

It's a scene familiar to many parents on a hot day: You grab the sunscreen and your little one is twisting and turning to avoid her least favorite part of enjoying the summer sun.

But if you've been using the spray-on variety to make those sunscreen applications a little easier, you may want to reconsider.

Consumer Reports announced July 2 that parents should generally stop using spray-on sunscreens on children until the Food and Drug Administration has completed an investigation into the safety of the products.

Children could be accidentally breathing in sunscreen ingredients, particularly if they squirm around while mom or dad does the spraying, the organization says.

The FDA said in June that it was requesting data to establish the effectiveness of spray sunscreens and to determine whether they present a safety concern if inhaled unintentionally. In the meantime, Consumer Reports recommends that parents only use spray sunscreen if they have no other option available.

Experts are quick to remind parents that using sunscreen is still essential, along with wearing protective outerwear.

Dos and don'ts of sunscreen use

Dr. Roxana Chapman, a West Bloomfield dermatologist affiliated with Beaumont Health System, says parents don't necessarily need to stop using the sprays.

"I really think that the use of the sunscreen and the benefits from it far outweighs any potential risk," Chapman says. "Safety and common sense are a good thing to keep in mind when we are using these newer products."

Don't spray sunscreen directly onto your face. Instead, spray it into your hands and then apply to the face, she says.

And try to apply the spray before you get to the beach, for example, not when you're out in the wind.

"You don't want to spray the face. Putting it in your hand is wise. But again, I think putting it on is important," Chapman says.

Many parents have concerns about the chemicals in sunscreens in general, but Chapman referenced a newer study out of Australia showing the safety of exposure to nanoparticles of zinc oxide (a main ingredient in many sunscreens), in addition to studies proving the effectiveness of sunscreen use in reducing melanoma incidence.

"I think the use of sunscreen is essential and I think the titanium oxide and zinc oxide products are excellent fairly chemical-free," she said. "I think it's safe and I think the guidelines are very, very good."

The bottom line? Keep using sunscreen daily, and if you use a spray, take precautions to do so safely. Make applying sunscreen part of your family's routine and tell your kids why it's so important.

"Daily use is really important," Chapman says. "Putting on sunscreen is a great educational tool for children."

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