Aerosol Sunscreen aka The Devil’s Mist

Hey you. You with the aluminum spray can of sunscreen. Yes, you. Stop right there. Just stop. Please. Can we talk about this?


You’re killing me softly with your prolific use of The Mist. And by you, I definitely mean the collective “you”; I’m starting to worry that I’m edging towards the minority, as more and more people adopt The Can each year. Now is the time to act people – we must join forces to stop the madness. Can’t we all just agree that aerosol sunscreen is the WORST? I hate it more than I hate the sound of people eating bananas, which is to say, a lot.

Believe me, I realize the spray option is super convenient. I venture there’s not a soul in the world who actually enjoys slathering on the thick white shellac that is regular sunscreen. It doesn’t blend well, it leaves you with greasy palms, and it makes you crave diet-destroying piña coladas (No? Just me?) I get that. I hate sunscreen, specifically and in general. I prefer to never have to wear it, but I realize I am lucky, having dark skin and all. I sympathize with those of you with pale porcelain doll skin that burns to a crisp when you visit our islands, dangerously close to the Equator as they are. I know sunscreen is your cross to bear, but might I beseech you – use it if you must, but just say NO to the spray version.

I despise aerosol sunscreen with every fiber of my being and you should too. In my personal quest to send this concoction to the same place the noodle guard lies in rot, I’d like to share with you some compelling facts that may aide you in escaping its abominable seduction.


Every time I see someone pressing down the nozzle and releasing a blast of sunscreen, I feel as though I’m transported into one of those cold medicine commercials depicting a germ-filled sneeze polluting the air in freeze frame. Except in this case, it’s not just snot bacteria mucking up the atmosphere, but suspicious, unpronounceable chemicals that I’d rather not have on my person, let alone ingest. While the goal is to mist your individual body (or that of your child’s – God help him), the actuality is a fogging of a roughly 20ft circumference around you, depending on wind conditions. Your sunscreen particles have now managed to create a film on my sunglasses, find their way into my drink, and yes, they have now entered my breathing orifices. The artificial plastic aroma now perfuming the air is an added olfactory offense. Sunscreen in lotion form is an unobtrusive individual affair. By taking things to the spray level, you have now managed to turn your sunscreen application into a group activity, involving a beach of strangers who had no intention of playing as a team in the first place.


I’m no Al Gore, but this flagrant mist can’t be doing the environment any favors. Regular old sunscreen does enough damage underwater, bleaching our coral reefs, but the haze of the spray one ups it by spreading its toxic minions above the sea as well. Human, plant, animal – we’re all inhaling Octylacrylamide Copolymer. I have no actual facts here (isn’t my intuitive hypothesis enough?) but I’m sure we’ll all find out in a few years when palm trees start dying of sunscreen-related “treephoma” cancer. Mark my words.


stupid spray sunscreen

It’s commonly ignored knowledge that spray sunscreen offers comically less protection than its creamy peer. I hate to be the one to break it to you (ok, I don’t actually hate it that much), but you’ve been duped. Remember those clear bra straps that were all the rage 6 summers ago? The ones that looked like women were walking around with Scotch tape holding up their B-cups? Well, in the same way that those did not act as a magical Harry Potter invisibility cloak bra, spray sunscreen is just another sham masquerading as a convenient solution to your greasy palm problem. No matter how much you spray, it’s never going to compare to the thorough application of lotion. Even a gentle breeze steals away 1/3 of your mist before it even hits your skin. I see more than my share of sunburnt tourists and the ones who use aerosol sunscreen are unmistakable. Jagged pink stripes covering their body and airbrush-esque puffs in uneven patterns are the no-fail tell. If you want full coverage protection, don’t get all spray-fancy – just go with the lotion.


If none of the above makes any difference to you, know this – spray sunscreen will potentially cause you to explode into flames. Do you catch me? It is important that you do, so I will repeat myself – YOU COULD EXPLODE. INTO FLAMES. That’s pretty high up there on my list of things I’d like to avoid, how about you?

man on fire

Speaking from direct experience, Brett Sigworth describes the horror: “I went into complete panic mode and screamed,” Sigworth told ABC news. I’ve never experienced pain like that in my life.”

He was having your standard issue BBQ, decided to “protect” himself from the sun with his handy little aerosol sunscreen, and… BOOM. The “vapor trails” that were attached to his body, errant remains from the spray, set the man on fire. Don’t believe me? Read this.

burn victim

Look at those burns. From spray sunscreen. I rest my case.


If you insist on continuing your reckless use of the loathsome Devil’s Mist and either a) burst into flames or b) get punched in the face by someone because you lubed up his/her beer, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Aerosol sunscreen user/abuser, I will still love you, the world will still love you, but like a dad in tight, neon short shorts, don’t be surprised if people/me refuse to be seen in public with you. Please – join the fight against aerosol sunscreen. This stuff kills*.

*sometimes/probably hasn’t. Yet.

P.S. I’m having rally buttons made, just FYI, if anyone’s interested.

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Chrissann Nickel

About Chrissann Nickel

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood's imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website,, or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

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16 thoughts on “Aerosol Sunscreen aka The Devil’s Mist

  1. We owned a fishing business on St. Croix. My husband DETESTED this stuff. It would get all over the deck of the boat and make it slippery. None of my mom friends used the stuff. You could always tell a stateside by the type of sunscreen they used (or didn’t use!) Our sentiments EXACTLY!!

  2. Agh! It’s the worst stuff and I had the sunburn to prove it. The only reason I bought it was that I was going to be alone when I need to apply sunscreen (definitely need help) and this product was new & seemed like it was a brilliant idea.
    I had tagged along with my husband for a week to Grand Bahamas ( he had a 3week gig with an Environmental cleanup company that he has worked for on and off for years ).
    The use of this stupid sunscreen-spray resulted in a very oddly shaped coral pink sunburn on the backs of my legs & parts of my back. I had put proper sunscreen on in the hotel room, but when I re-applied outside with the spray, I guess the Bahama breezes carried most of it away .
    Never again. I learned my lesson the hard way.

  3. This may sound crazy but last year I went the spray route because I had no one around to help me. We were at the lake and the rest were out on the boat. I went down to catch the boat later. I am thoroughly convinced the spray caused the worst burn I have ever had. I don’t know if it’s a chemical burn from the ingredients or what but I had blisters, peeled for weeks and eventually developed something known as the ‘devil’s itch’ requiring peppermint or tea tree oil on my shoulders to keep me from going crazy with the itch!! THis burn didn’t look like a sunburn. Again, I think the spray burned me.

  4. To me, I don’t understand why so many people are against the idea of covering up. If you’re serious about avoiding sunburn and skin damage due to sun exposure, the best thing you can do is cover up. I always wear a thin dive skin when snorkeling. My skin is completely covered, it doesn’t wash off like regular sunscreen so I can be in the water as long as I want, there is no annoying slathering myself with paste procedure, AND (perhaps most importantly of all), there is no impact to the delicate ecosystem around me. It seems an obvious choice. But I am definitely in the minority on this one.

  5. Not only should you not use spray…the other sunscreens are leaving film of the water and killing the reefs. Please use reef safe sunscreens. 🙂

  6. Before moving to the island my husband and I frequently made road trips in our convertible. During one trip along the coast of Florida I sprayed sunscreen while pumping gas. This stuff, this Devil’s Mist, ruined the finish of my car!! Every spot where the aerosol spray touched has blistered and peeled. It can’t be waxed out or buffed out. It peels paint off of cars, People! Imagine what it is doing to the atmosphere, the trees, YOUR LUNGS!! DEVIL’S MIST indeed!

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