Whether going about everyday activities or going to the beach seeking sun, using sunscreen is paramount in the effort to avoid getting skin cancer.
Consumer Reports is out with a list of the best performers.
And, on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Dr. Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist, offered advice about keeping your skin safe in the sun, and assessed some of the sunscreens Consumer Reports found worthy.
The biggest mistake consumers make, she said, is thinking that the higher the SPF number of the sunscreen, the better off they are. Turns out the SPF that is right for you depends on where you live and where you are going on vacation.
The key for preventing sun damage is to re-apply the sunscreen every three hours.
Consumer Reports, she explains, just released results of its testing of 22 sprays, creams and lotions. The magazine had an outside lab determine whether the products met their labeled sun protection factor (SPF), which blocks the UVB rays. UVB rays cause burns and lead to skin cancer. They also tested protection against UVA rays which we classically associate with aging, but also contribute to skin cancer development over time. Consumer Reports asked volunteers to rate the smell and feel of the products, since people are less likely to use a product that has a bad odor or feels sticky. And last, the magazine tested how waterproof the products were when skin was submerged under water for 80 minutes and then exposed to UV rays.
The top picks by Consumer Reports, by category:
SPF 30, says Mariwalla, is a good number to look to use during day-to-day activities if you live in the Northeast, and Northwest. The top winners all happen to be sprays and the key thing to remember when using a spray is good, even coverage. Hold the nozzle 2 inches away from the skin and spray on your first coat 30 minutes before going outside. This will make sure you are protected when you are exposed to the sun and, by holding the can at a close distance, you will prevent a spray plume, which is especially important for parents using it on their kids or for people with severe asthma.
All of these products had excellent UVB coverage and maintained the coverage after 80 minutes in the water. They also had very good UVA coverage. Unfortunately, all of these sprays were found to have the potential to stain clothing, so it is something to be aware of.
Volunteers describe the scent as a mix of floral and citrus with a bit of perfume smell that leaves only a slight oily/greasy residue. This is a good product for folks jumping in and out of the water or who are very active. The company also sells a spray specifically for the scalp and body which is nice for men who may be thinning on top.
Users felt one of the advantages of this product was that it dries more quickly than some of the other sprays. They also said the smell reminded them of a "classic" beach sunscreen and were please that it had a "barely there" feeling. This is a good sunscreen for people with an active lifestyle like runners or sports enthusiasts. The company also sells an excellent sunscreen for kids. Though remember, children under 6 months of age should not wear sunscreen and instead wear loose cotton clothing.
Testers described a slight floral and sweet plastic scent for this product which needed a little more time than the others to dry (a little more than 30 seconds). While it did not feel heavy on the skin, some people felt that when they rubbed their hand on their arm afterwards, it seemed to have a "draggy" residue. One of the features of this product is that you can spray it at any angle, which makes it particularly handy on the beach.
Up & Up is the Target in-house brand and of the four, is the best priced. It had a stronger scent than the others and a slightly oily and draggy residue was left behind.
The SPF 40 - 50 range is a great range to use when going on vacation to a very sunny place or if you live in the Southeast and Southwestern states. Essentially, the closer you get to the equator, the stronger your sunscreen should be.
Of all the sunscreens tested, No-Ad (literally No Advertising) was the least expensive. It has excellent UVB coverage and excellent coverage after 80 minutes in the water. It had very good UVA coverage and did not stain clothing easily. The product is a little hard to find, so your best bet is to stock up via on-line retailers. This is a good product to bring on family vacation because the price point is so reasonable. Because it has Aloe and Vitamin E it is also soothing and a good moisturizer.
People with fair skin and children who are going to be doing activities out in the sun should look to a sunscreen with an SPF 50 or higher. The reason is because we know that a good portion of our total sun exposure in life happens before the age of 18 so it is important to start good habits early and protect your children.
Since this is a lotion, it is important to remember how much to use: a ping-pong or golf size (depending on which you can relate to better) for the entire body. And don't forget behind your ears and neck as well as the tops of your feet. For this product, volunteers felt there was a just a hint of a sweet plastic scent with a very slight waxy, draggy residue. Across the board, it scored well, but it did tend to stain clothing.