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Nano-Particles and Sunscreen Sprays
(Sunscreen part 3 of 3)

After you've been in the water, put more sunscreen on because it washes off.
After you've been in the water, put more
sunscreen on because it washes off

When considering sunscreens, one of the big choices is between lotion, spray, powder or stick. Each has distinct advantages and problems. The traditional way sunscreens have been sold is as a lotion. It's messy and can take a little effort to put on, but once you spread it over an area of skin, you know it's covered. The biggest pain is putting some on your back without assistance. There are applicator sticks and sponges designed to help, but try and enlist a friend if you can.

For babies, manufacturers now make towelettes that are saturated in sunscreen to rub on. We were unable to find any testing that shows how much lotion actually transfers onto the baby's skin. It's also unclear how large of an area each towelette is designed to cover.

Don't be fooled by the "baby safe" claims either. In analyzing the labels, we found the active ingredient list was identical on many brands of baby towelettes and adult lotion formulations.

Sunscreen sticks are a reasonable alternative for people who don't like the mess of lotions. They're easy to use and keep your hands cleaner, but you must be careful because their small surface area makes it's easy to miss sections when you apply.

Sprays and powders are extremely convenient, but they could pose an inhalation risk. Many use nano-particles (extremely small particles) that you might breathe in as you're applying. Research is still inconclusive, so the Food and Drug Administration has started asking manufacturers to provide data that their products don't damage lungs. It can also be difficult to tell if a spray has adequately covered an area when applying. If you use sprays or powders, apply them outdoors in a well-ventilated area and don't breathe when they're being put on.

For safety, choose lotions first. Use sticks to cover smaller areas. If you insist on using sprays, do so only in well-ventilated areas, preferably outdoors. Skip the towelettes completely.

To make sure you stay protected, reapply sunscreen at least once every 1 to 2 hours. More frequently if you're getting in and out of water.

How about those claims of "instant" sun protection from lotions? Don't believe them. Sunscreen lotions take 25-35 minutes after application before they start to work. Always apply them half an hour before you plan on being in the sun.

The staff of WeBeFit looked at hundreds of products and the ones we like best are from a company called "Tropical Seas." They make a line of reef safe products that can be found at www.reefsafesuncare.com. You should know WeBeFit has not and will not receive any compensation for that recommendation. We are merely giving it our endorsement because we want more people to use it to protect their skin and our environment.

Want to see how your sunscreen rates? You're in luck. A non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group has built a website and produced a free smartphone app that gives detailed ratings on hundreds of sunscreens. You can also search for your brand and see how well it performed. Go to www.ewg.org for all the details. On your smartphone search for "Environmental Working Group Sunscreen" in the app store.

We want to encourage any organization that would like to use this information to post this three-part series of sunscreen articles freely. We also give permission to copy and paste the text from this article to post on your website. You do NOT have to give WeBeFit credit and you do NOT have to link back to us as long as you do not alter the text. Please just help spread the word.

Part 1 2 3

For more information, here's an article from Snorkels and Fins called "Sunscreen is Damaging Coral Reefs - Everything You Should Know About It."

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Updated 8/15/13
Updated 8/11/19