These Are the Worst Spray Sunscreens, According to the Environmental Working Group

Summer is the season we typically praise sunscreen — especially the convenient spray kind — for its ability to protect our skin from harsh UV rays. That said, the beach bag must-have has recently received a lot of backlash.

Thanks to harsh chemicals found in many favorite sunscreen formulas, consumers and officials across the globe have sunscreen under a magnifying glass; They want to know just how safe sunscreen is for us, and for the environment. In fact, Hawaii recently went so far as to banned all sunscreens formulated with chemicals known to damage coral reef.

The coral reef isn’t the only concern officials have in regards to SPF. Due to misleading SPF numbers, the FDA and Environmental Working Group also have concerns for specific sun-protecting formulas. That coupled with the growing issue of spray sunscreen has us questioning whether or not our favorite formulas are safe to use.

Woman choosing sunscreen

The Environmental Working Group warns against certain spray sunscreens. | RossHelen/Getty Images

The worst spray sunscreens

As we mentioned above, the Environmental Working Group has a growing interest in the safety of sunscreen — particularly spray sunscreens, as the risk of chemical inhalation is higher. In addition to these concerns, they have compiled a list of some of the worst spray sunscreens to use. Check out the so-called “Hall of Shame,” below.


  • Sport High-Performance AccuSpray Sunscreen SPF 70
  • Sport High-Performance Clear Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 100+

Wondering how Coppertone made the Environmental Working Group’s list of worst spray sunscreens? To start, both of the listed sunscreen formulas claim to have ultra high SPF levels. While this might be perfectly true, the FDA warns against these claims and asks manufacturers to list products with SPF levels greater than 50 as “SPF 50 plus.” Changing the SPF number helps weed out any misleading claims.

In addition to alarming SPF levels, Coppertone’s SPF formulas contain the two harmful chemicals — oxybenzone and octinoxate — known to disrupt marine life and coral reefs.

Banana Boat

  • Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 110

Another sunscreen formula on the Environmental Working Group’s radar? Banana Boat Clear UltraMist Ultra Defense MAX Skin Protect Continuous Spray Sunscreen SPF 110. The formula not only contains a misleading SPF level, it is formulated with oxybenzone, too.


  • Fresh Cooling Sunscreen Body Mist SPF 70
  • Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray SPF 100+
  • Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen Spray SPF 70
  • Wet Skin Sunscreen Spray SPF 85+

Neutrogena might be a popular choice for sunscreen, but the Environmental Working Group questions some of its formulas. Similar to Coppertone and Banana Boat, the listed worst spray sunscreens contain high SPF levels and a variety of harmful ingredients that can be easily inhaled given the application process. Not to mention: It contains oxybenzone, a chemical believed to cause harm to the coral reef.


  • Clear Spray Sunscreen SPF 100
  • Sheer Mist Spray Sunscreen SPF 70
  • Sport Clear Spray Sunscreen SPF 100
  • Wet & Dry Sunscreen Spray SPF 85

Generic brands might be budget-friendly, but they’re not always environmental-friendly. Not only do certain CVS sunscreens — listed above — feature misleading SPF levels, but they also contain harmful ingredients such as octinoxate and oxybenzone that devastate coral reefs.

Read more: These Are the Best Sunscreens for the Environment

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