26 September 2023

Study blows lid on aerosol sunscreens

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Sun-lovers and the money-conscious alike are being warned against using aerosol sunscreens for sun protection.

The warning comes from the Commonwealth’s Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) after research conducted by Griffith University found the effectiveness of aerosol sprays was severely impacted by light and moderate wind conditions.

Senior Research Fellow at Griffith University, Elke Hacker said all five of the aerosol sunscreens tested were ineffective in typical wind conditions, with 28-93 per cent of sunscreen lost in 20 kph winds and 32-79 per cent lost in 10 kph winds.

“The wind speeds that we used in this study (10 kph and 20 kph) are considered ‘light’ and ‘moderate’ and are experienced 69-95 per cent of the time at beaches around Australia,” Dr Hacker said.

“With such a large amount of sunscreen lost, the ability of aerosol sunscreen to provide protection against UV radiation is severely reduced,” she said.

“A person would need to spray on aerosol sunscreen in some cases for up to 250 seconds per limb or more than a bottle’s worth to provide adequate protection for a whole-body application.”

Dr Hacker said that on windy days, people using aerosol sunscreen could be wasting up to 93 per cent of their bottle.

The Senior Research Fellow said her team calculated that the blown away sunscreen could cost a user between $4 and $16 per application.

She said with an aerosol product, in moderate wind conditions (20 kph), it would cost one adult an average of $42.80 for one whole-body sunscreen application.

Director of Assessment and Advice at ARPANSA, Rick Tinker said the Griffith findings followed previous research, which showed aerosol sprays were not as effective as creams or lotions because it was difficult to know how much sunscreen was dispensed with each spray.

“We strongly urge Australians to use sunscreen lotions and creams instead of aerosols, as they provide easier application, more coverage and longer-lasting protection as they are applied straight to the skin and are often rubbed into the skin upon application,” Dr Tinker said.

He reminded people that sunscreen should be the last line of defence and should be used alongside other sun protection methods.

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