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Consumer Reports: Shopping for sunscreen

No matter your age or skin color, if you're going to be outside longer than a few minutes, you'll need to use sunscreen to protect yourself against skin cancer and wrinkles. (Image credit: Consumer Reports)

Summer's nearly here, which means fun in the sun. But no matter your age or skin color, if you're going to be outside longer than a few minutes, you'll need to use sunscreen to protect yourself against skin cancer and wrinkles.

Consumer Reports cut through all the jargon to help find the best sunscreen for you.

SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen guards against ultraviolet B rays from the sun -- the chief cause of sunburn and a contributor to skin cancer. As part of Consumer Reports testing, sunscreen was applied to subjects' backs and then they soaked in a tub for 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the product's water-resistance claim. The area was then exposed to UVB light. The next day, experts examined the area for redness.

In Consumer Reports' sunscreen tests, many sunscreens didn't meet the SPF level printed on the packages. So, Consumer Reports recommends buying a chemical sunscreen with an SPF 40 or higher. Two of Consumer Reports' top best buy sunscreens are Equate Walmart Sport Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50.


If you're looking for a sunscreen containing mineral ingredients, thinking they contain fewer chemicals, shop carefully. In CR's sunscreen tests in recent years, we haven't found a mineral sunscreen that provides top-notch protection and meets its labeled SPF.

As for water resistant sunscreens, don't make the mistake of thinking water-resistant means waterproof. The minute you get into the water or start to sweat, the sunscreen starts to come off. So, when you get out of the water, you have to reapply.

To have a great sunburn free summer, Consumer Reports recommends applying sunscreen 15 minutes before you go out. Be sure to cover often overlooked spots, such as your ears, upper back, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet. And reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2018 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.

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