What’s the best sunscreen for your family? Consumer Reports has you covered

Consumer Reports tests sunscreens to determine their effectiveness against the suns's ultraviolent rays. UVA can cause aging and UVB which can lead to sunburns and even cancer.

Summer is right around the corner, and we’re all eager to get out of the house, but before you head out into the sun, make sure you have the right protection.

We’re not talking about face masks.

Consumer Reports has released its list of the best sunscreen brands for 2021, so you don’t waste your money.

CR tests sunscreens from lotions to sprays to determine their effectiveness against the sun’s ultraviolet rays: UVA, which can cause aging, and UVB, which can lead to sunburns or even cancer.

Testers look for everything from how the product delivers on SPF coverage to fulfilling waterproof claims.

The SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is a measure of how well a sunscreen protects against sunburn.

Breaking down the numbers on the bottle:

  • SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays
  • SPF 50 blocks 98%
  • SPF 100 blocks 99%

Sunscreens don’t always live up to those claims and sometimes they fall far short, and that’s where CR’s ratings come in.

Lotions

Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50 -- a $4 sunscreen you can get at Walmart -- is this year’s Best Buy from CR for lotion sunscreen.

A long-time top performer came in a close second: Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Lotion, SPF 30. The $32 sunscreen actually performed even better than the Walmart brand in UVA protection.

Rounding out the top three for lotions was Neutrogena Ultra sheer Face Lotion SPF 70 at $11.99-$16.49 a bottle.

Sprays

The top four on CR’s recommended list for sprays:

  • Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Clear Spray, SPF 50 ($9.48-$10.99)
  • Banana Boat Ultra Sport Spray, SPF 100 ($8.99-$13.99)
  • Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Spray, SPF 30 ($11.49-$12.49)
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios Lotion Spray, SPF 60 ($35.99)

Mineral sunscreens

Some people prefer mineral or natural sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both as the active ingredients, because they don’t contain chemical active ingredients such as avobenzone or oxybenzone.

But CR experts say their testing over the years has repeatedly shown mineral sunscreens perform worse than those that contain chemical active ingredients.

Some provide adequate SPF protection but not enough UVA protection, or vice versa.

If you are concerned about chemical exposure and prefer to use a mineral sunscreen, CR’s testing found two products that provide acceptable protection, although they aren’t among the top performers in CR’s tests:

  • Badger Active Natural Mineral Cream, SPF 30, Unscented ($16.99-$27.25)
  • California Kids #supersensitive Tinted Lotion SPF 30+ ($25.99)

Applying sunscreen

So how do you make sure you’re applying enough?

For sprays, you’ll want to spray enough until it glistens, and then rub it in -- don’t forget that part.

For lotions, CR recommends 1 teaspoon for your face head and neck, 1 teaspoon for each arm, 1 teaspoon for your chest and abdomen and 1 teaspoon for your back and neck.

If you’re in a bathing suit, you’ll need about an ounce to cover your entire body -- that’s roughly a shot glass

The most important thing to remember -- ANY sunscreen is better than none.


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