Sunscreen sprays vs. sunscreen sticks

Sun & Tanning

No matter which sunscreen you choose, you must reapply every two hours for it to remain effective. It is also important to reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming or if you start sweating.

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Sunscreen spray vs. sunscreen stick

Whether it’s a spray or a stick, it is vital to purchase the correct type of sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend getting sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and offers broad-spectrum protection, which is protection from UVA and UVB rays. Additionally, even if you do not plan on going swimming, your sunscreen should be water-resistant, so it will still protect you if you sweat.

Of equal importance is how you apply sunscreen. Both spray and stick methods have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Sunscreen spray

Sunscreen spray users apply the spray to the body as a mist that is either pumped or propelled. The sunscreen can either be a chemical sunscreen spray or a mineral sunscreen spray. The main difference between the two is that chemical sunscreens absorb the sun’s harmful rays while mineral sunscreens deflect those harmful rays. Some individuals gravitate toward mineral sunscreen because they do not like the idea of spraying chemicals onto their skin. 

To receive sufficient protection from sunscreen, the recommended dose is 1 ounce of sunscreen, equivalent to a full shot glass. If you purchase a 4-ounce bottle of sunscreen, you should only get four applications from that bottle. To achieve the proper dosage with a spray, hold the nozzle close to your skin and spray generously. Once the entire surface of your skin is glistening, rub the sunscreen in to provide thorough coverage.

Most sunscreen spray products cost roughly between $8-$15 per bottle, with specialty formulas costing a few dollars more.

What you’ll love about sunscreen spray

  • It’s easy to use.
  • It can cover hard-to-reach areas.
  • The convenience means you are more likely to use the product regularly.

What you should consider about sunscreen spray

  • You should never inhale sunscreen spray.
  • It is not recommended for kids.
  • It may trigger an asthma attack.
  • You should not use sunscreen spray on windy days.
  • Most people do not use enough sunscreen spray for adequate protection.
  • Aerosol sprays are harmful to the environment.
  • Sunscreen spray is flammable and should never be used around open flames.

Top product sunscreen sprays

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Spray

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Spray

This high-performance SPF 30 sunscreen’s design stays strong, even while sweating. It offers a continuous spray that allows you to get maximum coverage, no matter which angle you hold the container.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray

Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Spray

This mineral-based SPF 30 sunscreen sits on the top of your skin to block the sun’s harmful rays. It is a chemical-free, zinc-based formula for sensitive skin that goes on leaving you feeling fresh and clean.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Overstock

Coppertone KIDS Sunscreen Spray

Coppertone KIDS Sunscreen Spray

This three-pack of sunscreen spray is formulated for kids. It features an SPF of 50, is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and designed not to run. This means it won’t burn your kids’ eyes when they start sweating.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sunscreen stick

Like sunscreen sprays, sunscreen sticks can be either chemical or mineral-based. This sunscreen must be applied correctly to be effective. After applying the sunscreen, you must rub it in to provide maximum protection. Most sunscreen sticks cost between $7-$15 per bottle. However, the majority of these products are less costly than sunscreen sprays.

What you’ll love about a sunscreen stick

  • It is ideal for small areas such as the face, where a precision application is essential.
  • You can use a sunscreen stick in windy weather.
  • Sunscreen sticks are best for kids.
  • It is much easier to keep sunscreen out of your eyes when using a sunscreen stick.
  • A sunscreen stick doesn’t have the same inhaling concerns that a sunscreen spray has.

What you should consider about a sunscreen stick

  • It can be difficult (or impossible) to reach all areas of your body with a sunscreen stick.
  • A sunscreen stick is not ideal for coverage on hairy areas.
  • There is a tendency not to apply enough sunscreen when using a sunscreen stick.

Top sunscreen sticks

CeraVe Sunscreen Stick 

CeraVe Sunscreen Stick 

If you need a sunscreen stick that is oil-free and won’t block pores, this SPF 50 stick will do the trick. It is a mineral-based sunscreen that can be used daily, even on sensitive skin areas.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sun Bum Signature SPF 50 Tinted Face Stick

Sun Bum Signature SPF 50 Tinted Face Stick

This popular brand of mineral-based sunscreen’s formula remains strong for up to 80 minutes of vigorous activity. It is hypoallergenic, enriched with vitamin E and gluten, cruelty-free and paraben-free.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Overstock

Badger SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Stick

Badger SPF 35 Clear Zinc Sport Sunscreen Stick

This sunscreen only contains six ingredients: clear zinc oxide, organic extra virgin olive oil, organic beeswax, organic cocoa butter, organic shea butter and sunflower vitamin E. It has an SPF of 35 and remains on the surface of the skin (no absorption). As a bonus, this sunscreen is also reef-safe so that it won’t harm the aquatic environment.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Should you get sunscreen spray or a sunscreen stick?

The bottom line is that both a broad-spectrum sunscreen spray and a broad-spectrum sunscreen stick effectively protect the wearer from harmful UV rays. The difference comes down to the preference of the application. Although sunscreen spray has its downsides, for general, full-body application, the convenience outweighs those issues when applied correctly.

On the other hand, a sunscreen stick is best for spot applications, such as on the face. Additionally, a sunscreen stick is better for individuals with asthma and kids who might accidentally inhale the mist of a spray.

The critical point to remember for both types of sunscreen is the instructions must be followed, and you must apply a full dose for it to be effective. 


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Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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