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Consumer Reports: Shopping for sunscreen

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No matter your age or skin color, if you're going to be outside longer than a few minutes, you'll need to use sunscreen to protect yourself against skin cancer and wrinkles. (WLS)

Summer's nearly here, which means fun in the sun. But no matter your age or skin color, if you're going to be outside longer than a few minutes, you'll need to use sunscreen to protect yourself against skin cancer and wrinkles.

Consumer Reports cuts through all the jargon to help find the best sunscreen for you.

What do people look for on a sunscreen label? "Water resistant," "natural," and "SPF of at least 50," are a few popular terms.

"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.

SPF is a measure of how well a sunscreen guards against ultraviolet B rays from the sun. They're the chief cause of sunburn and a contributor to skin cancer.

As part of 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 UVB light. The next day, trained experts examine 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," said Susan Booth, Consumer Reports Product Testing.

Two of CR's top best buy sunscreens are, Equate Walmart Sport Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe's Spray SPF 50.

If you're looking for a sunscreen containing mineral ingredients, thinking they contain fewer chemicals. Shop carefully!

"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 resistant sunscreens, Calvo said, "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."

To have a great sunburn free summer, CR recommended applying 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. Re-apply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

If you're wondering if that old half used tube of sunscreen is still good, Consumer Reports said sunscreen is formulated to remain effective for at least three years. Toss that sunscreen if it's past its expiration date.

If you can't find an expiration date or don't remember when you bought that sunscreen, play it safe and buy a new one.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org
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