6 On Your Side: Consumer Confidence, Top Tested Sunscreen of 2023

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(ABC 6 News) – From lotions to sprays, to sport and reef-safe, the sunscreen aisle can be a dizzying array of confusing labels.

Bottom line: You want one that works when summer’s sun is at its hottest. Consumer Reports tests dozens of varieties each year to reveal the best options that won’t burn your skin or a hole in your wallet.

“We test sunscreens to see how well they protect against two types of the sun’s rays—UVA and UVB, which cause aging, skin cancer, and sunburn,” explains Consumer Reports’ Trisha Calvo.

To test for SPF – the “sun protection factor” and a measure of how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays, expert testers apply sunscreen onto panelists’ backs before they soak in a tub for 40 or 80-minutes, depending on the sunscreen’s water-resistance claim.

The area is then exposed to simulated sunlight. The next day, trained experts examine the area for redness.

To test for protection against UVA rays – testers apply sunscreen on plastic plates, expose them to UV light, then measure the amount of rays that are absorbed.

A top performing sunscreen with a perfect score that’s also a CR Smart Buy: Coppertone Water Babies Lotion SPF 50 – but don’t let the name throw you off, it’s not only for babies.

“All of our top-rated sunscreens contain chemical active ingredients. In our tests over the years, we found that mineral sunscreens don’t protect as well,” says Calvo.

If you do prefer a mineral or natural sunscreen, CR’s tests found California Kids Super Sensitive Tinted Lotion SPF 30+ provided acceptable protection.

As important as the sunscreen you choose is how you apply it.

For lotion, use a teaspoon per body part or area that’s not covered up with clothing.

If you’re using a spray, hold the nozzle about an inch from your skin and spray until your skin glistens, then rub it in.

And for all types of sunscreens, reapply every two hours and after swimming.