Even people who use sunscreen regularly don’t always have a good understanding of what they’re buying. People look at the SPF, or sun protection factor, and that’s very important, but it’s only one part of protecting your skin from the sun.
The SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen shields your skin from UVB rays, which penetrate the top layer of skin and are the chief cause of sunburns. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can contribute to wrinkles. Both UVA and UVB rays can increase the risk of skin cancer. Consumer Reports recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen so you’re protected against both kinds of rays.
Consumer Reports tested more than 60 sunscreens to see whether they deliver the protection claimed. In the UVB tests, technicians apply sunscreen to panelists’ backs and have them soak in a tub for 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the product’s water-resistance claim. Then the area is exposed to UVB light. The next day, the test area is examined for redness. More than 40 percent of the sunscreens tested didn’t have the SPF promised. To check UVA protection, technicians pass UVA light through sunscreen samples. Again, some had problems.
Consumer Reports did find some sunscreens that aced the tests and are a good value.
Among the best:
- Pure Sun Defense SPF 50 for about $6
- Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 for about $8
- No-Ad Sport SPF 50 for $10
Consumer Reports also tested spray sunscreens. Some of the best are:
- Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50 for $6
- Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 from Walmart for $5
- DG Body Sport SPF 30 from Dollar General for $5