Skin Saving Secrets: Choosing Your Perfect Sunscreen Application. Part II: Lotion, Stick, or Spray?

In the previous blog post, we explored the distinction between physical and chemical sunscreens (read here). Now, let’s dive into another crucial aspect of sun protection – the difference between sunscreen lotions, sprays, and sticks.

The way we apply sunscreen can significantly impact its effectiveness in shielding our skin from harmful UV radiation. The key to maximising sun protection lies in the amount (or thickness) of sunscreen applied to the skin. Over the years, the market has seen an expansion in the types of sunscreen products available. From traditional lotions to convenient sprays, and even sunscreen sticks and makeup infused with SPF – the broader variety caters to different preferences and lifestyles. However, this abundance of choices can sometimes lead to confusion when deciding which option to pick.


The majority of sunscreen products in drugstores are typically in the form of lotions or creams. They have become popular choices among users for several reasons. One notable advantage is that lotions allow for easy visualization of the areas of skin covered during application. This visual clarity ensures comprehensive coverage, reducing the likelihood of missing any spots. Furthermore, using lotions grants users greater control over the amount of product applied to their skin, minimising wastage. Consequently, this encourages the application of adequate amounts of sunscreen, which enhances the overall effectiveness of sun protection. Finally, lotions are  favored for their hydrating properties, nourishing and moisturising the skin, while simultaneously providing essential protection against the sun’s harmful rays.


A sunscreen spray is easy to apply, takes less time to cover your skin and it might feel more hygienic as the sunscreen directly arrives on the target skin area. However, people who use sprays often, generally, don’t cover their bodies with enough product [1]. Often people tend to get less sunscreen out of a spray because they only spray for a couple of seconds. Additionally, not all product that leaves the bottle reaches your skin. It partly gets lost into the air. This makes it difficult to compare the protection capacity of sprays with other application types. An important note about sprays concerns their safety. While there is no research conducted, there is some theoretical concern with regards to inhalation of the sunscreen spray [2]. So, if you use a sunscreen spray, it is recommended to spray the sunscreen onto your hands and then rub it onto your face. And avoid getting the spray into the eyes or mouth.


According to a recent study, sunscreen sticks were found to have the lowest mean thickness (0.35 mg/cm2) compared to lotions (1.1 mg/cm2) and sprays (1.6 mg/cm2) [1]. Despite this, sunscreen sticks offer a distinct advantage in their practicality for use around the delicate eye area. Additionally, many individuals find them easier to use for reapplying sunscreen on the face, ensuring continuous protection throughout the day.


I prefer to use a sunscreen lotion. Because it seems that people tend to apply sunscreen more consciously and properly when they use a lotion. However, sometimes it is more practical to also have a stick or spray. For example, when you want to reapply sunscreen on top of your make up. So, when I have a day out in the sun, I keep a sun stick or spray in my bag.

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