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Consumer Reports: Top-tested sunscreens

Posted at 9:10 AM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 12:44:31-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - With weeks of sheltering in place and summer approaching, getting outside in the nice warm weather is something many of us are looking forward to. But it’s important to take the proper precautions, and we’re not just talking face masks.

“You don't need to be on a beach to get burned. No matter where you are outside, you need to apply sunscreen to any exposed skin, even if it’s cloudy or not super-hot," says Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports.

You may even need to wear sunscreen indoors if you spend a lot of time sitting near a sunny window.

“Glass blocks the UV rays that cause sunburn, but it can let through some of the UV rays that are primarily responsible for wrinkles and skin cancer," says Calvo.

As part of Consumer Reports testing, sunscreen is applied to subjects’ backs 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 simulated sunlight. The next day, trained experts examine the area for redness.

Two top performers are also CR best buys: Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+ and Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 70.

It’s important to note, all of CR’s top rated sunscreens contain an ingredient called oxybenzone, which is a very effective UV filter.

“The concern with oxybenzone is that there is some evidence that it’s absorbed through the skin more than previously thought," says Calvo. "That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s unsafe, but the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents may want to use an oxybenzone-free sunscreen on their kids.”

Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Ultra Radiance Lotion SPF 50 and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Lotion SPF 30 were the highest scoring oxybenzone free sunscreens in CR's tests. Although not at the top of the ratings, they're still highly protective.

Consumer Reports also recommends parents choose lotion sunscreens for kids and only use sprays as a last resort, because kids may inhale the spray which could cause lung irritation.