Choosing the Best Sunscreen – Consumer Reports Recommendations

With summer upon us, it’s time to stock up on sunscreen for the season. To help navigate the vast selection crowding store shelves and to ensure you’re getting the best protection against, sunburn and skin cancer, Consumer Reports Health has released its list of top-rated sunscreens. And, here are the details from a report on AOL:

Consumer Reports analyzed how well 12 different sprays, lotions and creams blocked both UVA and UVB rays, and tested whether their claimed sun protection factor (SPF) — the measure of UVB protection — held up on volunteers who soaked in water while wearing the sunscreen.

Four of those tied for best overall score:

  • Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30 (Target)
  • Walgreens Sport Continuous SPF 50
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30
  • Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF 50.

These four — all sprays — provided “very good” UVA protection, “excellent” UVB protection, and met their SPF claim even after 80 minutes in the water. Plus, the Up & Up sunscreen was rated a CR Best Buy — a tag awarded to products that both perform well and come at a reasonable price.

Beyond those four, however, a remarkable number still managed to received good marks from testing. “This year we have nine that we’re recommending and that’s a lot,” says Gayle Williams, deputy editor for Consumer Reports Health. “Even the one that is last on the list rated good in terms of UVA and UVB protection. So even if you don’t buy the one at the top of our list, you’re still getting a good product.”

Which means consumers have some leeway to select a sunscreen based on personal preferences, says Williams. “Some people don’t like the scent of one, or one feels a little too greasy or not greasy enough or whatever. It’s good because you are putting this on your skin and you’re supposed to be wearing it for a long time. And if you really despise the smell or hate the feel, you’re not going to do it.”

With that in mind, Consumers Report Health also tapped their sensory panelists to evaluate how the 12 sunscreens felt, smelled, and rubbed in or sprayed on. Turns out the top four had floral or citrus scents and left little residue on skin.

The bottom line is, find one you like: Most experts recommend wearing sunscreen every day (even cloudy ones).

I also advise the following:

  • Buy sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (plenty for most people) that claims to be water resistant (to help keep skin protected while swimming or sweating)
  • For full-body protection, adults should apply 2 to 3 tablespoons of lotion 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Applying them can be tricky if it’s windy so take precautions to make sure you’re fully covered.
  • Wear tightly woven clothing and a hat, limit your sun time, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day.
  • If you buy a sunscreen that has no expiration date, write down the purchase date on the bottle with a permanent marker.
  • Discard your sunscreen at its expiration date or if you’ve had it for more than two years as it may have lost its potency.
  • Don’t make your purchase decisions based on brand alone. Different formulas or SPFs within the same brand may not have equivalent performance

To see the full list of sunscreen ratings, check out the July 2010 issue of Consumer Reports Health or go online here.

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