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Use etiquette with spray-on sunscreen

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Question: What are the guidelines for using spray-on sunscreen in public? Obviously, it would be best to apply it in private, but sometimes that’s not practical. I see people doing this all the time at amusement parks, the beach, etc. — sometimes pretty close to others. Is it better not to use it at all because of the smell factor?

Answer: It’s best to put on your sunscreen before you go out, but as you say, sometimes it’s impossible to avoid touching it up in public. And the spray-on kind is incredibly convenient if you’re trying to apply it to antsy little kids, simply because it’s faster than lotion. That said, some of the spray-on formulas really stink, so it’s no surprise people who are sensitive to fragrances have an issue with them.

You should try not to use spray-on sunscreen near other people. If it’s unavoidable, spray a little into your hand and rub it in rather than creating a big aerosol cloud that makes everyone choke. Also, no spraying it near food — yours or anybody else’s. And while I usually recommend taking care of personal grooming in the bathroom, that’s not an ideal place to apply spray-on sunscreen. Unless there’s good ventilation, the smell will linger, and the spray can make ceramic tile extremely slick. If you’re at, say, an amusement park, you’d be better off finding a bench in an uncrowded area and applying the sunscreen there.

Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at

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