Sunscreen is essential on hot and sunny days. Sunscreen can protect us from skin cancer, as well as wrinkles and brown spots.
There are a lot of options when buying sunscreen.
A new survey from consumer reports finds that only 50 percent of us use it. And that even people who regularly use sunscreen don't always have a good understanding of what they're buying. Consumer Reports tested dozens to find out what you need to know.
"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," explained Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports Health editor.
RELATED: GMA: Consumer Reports rates sunscreens performance
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," she said.
Consumer Reports tested over 60 sunscreens to see whether they deliver the protection they claim.
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 didn't have the SPF they promised.
To check UVA, technicians pass UVA light through sunscreen samples. Again, some had problems.
But Consumer Reports found some sunscreens aced the tests and are a good value.
Among the best are Pure Sun Defense SPF 50 for about $6, Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 for about $8 and 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 40 from WalMart and DG Body Sport SPF 30 from Dollar General. Both sell for $5.
Click here for the full list.
Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.
(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
Consumer Reports puts sunscreens to the test
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