It's no secret that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer and other skin damage. But with so many products on the market, how do you know which one is right for you and your family? Consumer Reports rated a whopping 82 lotions, sprays, sticks, and lip balms, and cut through all the jargon on the labels to help find the best sunscreens.
In Consumer Reports' testing, sunscreen is applied to subjects' backs and then they soak in a tub for 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the product's water-resistance claim.
The area is then exposed to simulated sunlight. The next day, trained experts examine the area for redness.
Two of Consumer Reports' top Best Buy sunscreens are Equate Walmart Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50-plus.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration asked sunscreen manufacturers to provide additional safety information on 12 common sunscreen chemical active ingredients, including oxybenzone, which is potentially the most concerning.
The problem with oxybenzone is that there's evidence it's absorbed through the skin. Animal studies suggest that it may interfere with the function of hormones, including estrogen. But there hasn't been enough research yet to determine if it's harmful to people.
Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that parents may want to consider using an oxybenzone-free sunscreen on their children.
If you're looking for a sunscreen containing no chemicals, you may be thinking of trying a mineral or natural sunscreen. But shop carefully. In sunscreen tests in recent years, Consumer Reports hasn't found a mineral sunscreen that provides top-notch protection and meets its labeled SPF.
Although California Kids Sensitive Lotion SPF 30-Plus and Badger Active Badger Active Natural Mineral Cream SPF 30-Unscented weren't at the top of Consumer Reports' ratings, they were the highest-scoring mineral sunscreens and will provide some protection.
Consumer Reports also has its trained sensory panelists evaluate sunscreens for scent and feel. This sensory testing isn't factored into the Overall Score, but their descriptions of the scent and feel of every sunscreen can be found next to Consumer Reports' ratings to help you pick the best product for you.