Fortunately, it's easy to fix most backed-up bottles.

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close up of spraying aerosol sunscreen
Credit: skynesher / Getty Images

There are few things as frustrating as reaching for what feels like a full can of aerosol sunscreen only to discover that absolutely nothing happens when you press the applicator. The most common reason for this issue? The nozzle has become clogged with sand, sweat, or hardened sunscreen. Fortunately, in many cases, unclogging your bottle is a quick and easy process that will have you outside (and protected) in the sunshine in no time.

Hardened sunscreen and sand are often the culprits.

The sunscreen itself is typically to blame for these clogs; the product can harden right where the spray comes out of the nozzle, says Paul Halter, a sunscreen innovator with Goddess Garden. This can be annoying, especially if you discover the clog right when you need your SPF the most—or when you're already out and about and are experiencing significant sun exposure. But, this mishap doesn't have to ruin your afternoon or send you running for cover.

Unclog your aerosol sunscreen with water or a pin.

Halter notes that the best way to unclog a sprayer is to position the nozzle under hot running water. If that doesn't work, he suggests inserting a needle into the release mechanism to physically loosen the clog. "This will often do the trick and get you back spraying happily," he says.

Prevent clogs from forming.

Of course, the best way to stop a clogged can of sunscreen from impacting your beach trip is to prevent a blockage in the first place. To do so, Halter says, "Keep the tip of the sprayer clean of excess sunscreen, dirt, sand, or other grit. Each time you are done applying the sunscreen, take a moment to make sure the sprayer is clean." Some manufacturers also recommend that the sunscreen be shaken prior to application—this leads to a more even distribution—so be sure to check the directions before you spray to ensure you're getting the best results.

Avoid using any harsh chemicals on stubborn blockages.

It may be tempting to try a heavy-duty cleaner on clogs that can't be broken up with hot water or a pin alone, but Halter advises against this. "We don't recommend using stronger solvents to clean the sprayer, because some residual may get left behind—and you don't want to expose your skin to those chemicals," he says.

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