What’s the best sunscreen to wear to reduce sunburn and skin cancer? Are they all the same. Unfortunately no. While sunscreen labels have improved, I still don’t trust what I read as far as SPF numbers are concerned. Fortunately, there is Consumer Reports to help us out. In May, 2015 Consumer Reports reviewed Sunscreens. Not all were as good as their labels said. Below, are some of the brands of sunscreens that were the best and I’ve also included some that didn’t live up to their claims as well. After that, I’ll give you some tips to help you get the most out of your sunscreen.
The Best Sunscreens
While we might think that we have to pay a lot to get a quality sunscreen, Consumer Reports shows us that this isn’t always the case. In fact, sometimes the more expensive brands contained less SPF than their labels said they did. Even the Walmart brand beat out expensive brands!
There were others also made the grade. See Consumer Reports for a full list.
Sunscreens: The Not-So-Great
Here are a few brands of sunscreens that Consumer Reports found were not so great because either they had less SPF than their labels stated or they were not so good at blocking UVA rays.
- Vanicream SPF 50+
- Yes To Cucumber Natural SPF 30
- Aloe Gator SPF 40 Gel
- EltaMD UV Aero SPF 45
- CVS Baby Pure and Gentle SPF 60
There were others also. See Consumer Reports for a full list.
Carefully Read The Label
Look for at least SPF 30. Also, look for “broad spectrum” which means it blocks UV A and UV B rays. In addition, look for water-resistant especially if you will be in the water or sweating a lot.
Remember no sunscreen is waterproof, so you can't just put it on and forget about it. All products now tell us how often to reapply the sunscreen. For example, it might say 80 minutes, which means that it will have to be reapplied every 80 minutes to get the maximum benefit.
Be Careful With Spray-On Sunscreens
Because the spray is often invisible, it's hard to tell if your skin is completely covered or not. Because of this, be sure to rub the spray on the skin to makesure you have the maximum coverage. This is true even for spray sunscreens that say no rubbing is necessary.
With sunscreens that are in a lotion, make sure to use at least 2 tablespoons full. That is about what is in a shot-glass. This is what is often recommended to cover the face and upper body. Using more than this won't hurt either.
Give Yourself Time Before Going Outside
Sunscreens should be applied 15-20 minutes before you are exposed to the sun. If you just put the sunscreen on and go outside, you are exposed to UV radiation for at least 15 minutes before the sunscreen starts to work. This is enough time to get a sunburn and cause skin damage.
Remember also to replay at least every 2 hours and sooner than this if you are sweating or in the water. Again, look at the label of the sunscreen for an idea of how often to reapply it When it doubt, reapplying sooner, rather than later, is a smart move.
What about Spray-On Sunscreens?
Never directly spray sunscreen on to the face. Rather, spray the sunscreen into your hand and apply directly to the face, making sure not to get any in the eyes.
Because spray-on sunscreens have chemicals that may smell and irritate the eyes, be sure to blow on the liquid you sprayed in your hand before directly applying to the face, especially near the eyes.
Remember that spray on sunscreens are vaporized. Because of this, you run the risk of inhaling the chemicals. This may be a problem for people with asthma and other lung problems. The same goes for kids too. Don’t inhale the vapors of the sunscreen.
Spray-on sunscreens also can be flammable so be careful working around open flames when you use them. Don’t work around fire until it has completely dried. Even when it is dry I personally wouldn’t do it. I’ve never heard of spray-on sunscreens catching fire on people when you are in the hot sun so that’s good.
1. Spray-on sunscreens are the best. No, they are not, according to Consumer Reports. This is because it's hard to tell how much you are getting on your skin. This can lead to less sunscreen getting on the skin. To reduce this from happening, spray the sunscreen in your hand and rub it on the skin.
2. Kids' versions of sunscreens are best for kids. That's a myth. While it's true kids are not miniature adults, there is no evidence that kids need a different type of sunscreen (kid-friendly version) than adults do.
Both adult sunscreens and children's versions contain the same active ingredients. I think this is just a way to jack up the price on people, kind of like happens with “men’s deodorants.” Men don't need different kinds of deodorants and kids don't need kid-friendly sunscreens either.
3. Higher SPF = better protection. Myth. According to Consumer Reports, the difference between an SPF of 100 and an SPF of 50 is just 1%. The SPF of 100 is only 1% better than an SPF of 50.
4. Sunscreens are 100% effective. That is a myth. No sunscreen can block 100% of UV rays. Because of this, don’t forget to use umbrellas, hats and clothing when at the beach or otherwise in the sun.
What About Clothing?
A simple test to see if your clothing will protect you from sunburn is to hold it up to a light source. If you can see through the fabric when you hold it to the light, then UV rays can get through it. As a rule, darker clothing will protect us better than lighter colored clothing.
By using the right sunscreen and following some of the tips provided, you should be able to reduce your chances of getting sunburn and hopefully even skin cancer.