Sun safety: Your sunscreen buying guide
Sandra Hermiston and Ross McLaughlin, CTV Vancouver
Published Friday, May 18, 2018 6:00AM PDT
The May long weekend marks the start of the camping season and getting outdoors, which also means more fun in the sun. But no matter your age or skin colour, if you're going to be outside longer than a few minutes, you'll need to use sunscreen to protect yourself.
Do you look for a high SPF or something without chemicals, or is a waterproof sunscreen important to you?
“There are so many claims on sunscreen bottles, it can be really confusing to figure out which one to buy,” said Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports health editor.
Sun protection factor, or SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen guards against Ultraviolet B rays from the sun, the chief cause of sunburn, and a contributor to skin cancer.
Consumer Reports tested dozens of sunscreens, by applying them to subjects' backs. They then soaked in a tub for 40-or 80 minutes depending on the products' water-resistance claim. After that, the area is then exposed to UVB light and the next day, trained experts examined the area for redness.
“In our sunscreen tests, we found that many sunscreens don’t meet the SPF level printed on the package. So Consumer Reports recommends buying a chemical sunscreen with an SPF 40 or higher,” explained Susan Booth, Consumer Reports product testing.
Some of Consumer Reports best picks include Walmart's Equate sport lotion with an SPF 50. Coppertone Waterbabies, Aveeno Protect and Hydrate and Neutrogena Cool Dry sport lotion also make the top ten.
But if you’re looking for a sunscreen containing mineral ingredients, you may be disappointed by the protection delivered.
“In our sunscreen tests in recent years, we haven’t found a mineral sunscreen that provides both top-notch protection and meets its labeled SPF,” Booth said.
As for water resistance?
“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that water-resistant means waterproof. The minute you get into the water or start to sweat, the sunscreen starts to come off. So when you get out of the water, you have to reapply,” said Calvo.
To have a great sunburn free summer, apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before you go out. Be sure to cover often overlooked spots, such as your ears, upper back, the backs of your hands and the tops of your feet. Reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
And don't forget to check the expiration date. Most sunscreens are formulated to remain effective for about three years.