Bottom Line: Best sunscreen for the summer

Published: May. 16, 2023 at 7:03 AM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - From lotions to sprays to sport and reef-safe, the sunscreen aisle can be a dizzying array of confusing labels. You want one that works when summer’s sun is at its hottest.

Consumer Reports tests dozens of varieties each year to reveal the best options that won’t burn your skin or a hole in your wallet.

Sunscreen― the magic elixir that protects against skin cancer and premature aging. The best part is, it’s easy to find and inexpensive.

With so many choices, how do you know which one to choose?

“We test sunscreens to see how well they protect against two types of the sun’s rays—UVA and UVB, which cause aging, skin cancer, and sunburn,” said Trisha Calvin with Consumer Reports.

To test for SPF, the “sun protection factor” and a measure of how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays, expert testers apply sunscreen onto panelists’ backs before they soak in a tub for 40 or 80-minutes, depending on the sunscreen’s water-resistance claim.

The area is then exposed to simulated sunlight. The next day, trained experts examine the area for redness.

To test for protection against UVA rays, testers apply sunscreen on plastic plates, expose them to UV light, then measure the number of rays that are absorbed.

A top-performing sunscreen with a perfect score that’s also a CR Smart Buy: Coppertone Water Babies Lotion SPF 50 but don’t let the name throw you off, it’s not only for babies.

“All of our top-rated sunscreens contain chemically active ingredients. In our tests over the years, we found that mineral sunscreens don’t protect as well,” said Calvo.

If you do prefer a mineral or natural sunscreen, CR’s tests found California Kids Super Sensitive Tinted Lotion SPF 30+ provided acceptable protection.

As important as the sunscreen you choose is how you apply it. For lotion, use a teaspoon per body part or area that’s not covered up with clothing.

If you’re using a spray, hold the nozzle about an inch from your skin and spray until your skin glistens, then rub it in.

For all types of sunscreens, reapply every two hours and after swimming.

Consumer Reports also recommends parents choose lotion sunscreens for kids and only use sprays as a last resort, because kids may inhale the spray which could cause lung irritation.

“Consumer Reports TV News” is published by Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization that does not accept advertising and does not have any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

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