Consumer Reports: Not all sunscreens are created equal

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Reporter Nina Pineda has all you need to know about having safe fun in the sun. (KGO-TV)

Spending all day outside in the summer can be great, but sunscreen is needed to protect against sunburns, wrinkles and skin cancer. However, not all sunscreens are equal.

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

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.

As part of Consumer Reports testing, sunscreen was applied to subjects' backs before they soaked in a tub for 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the product's water-resistance claim.

The area was then exposed to UVB light, and the next day, trained experts examined the area for redness.

Consumer Reports' testing found 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.

Two of Consumer Reports' 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 Consumer Reports' sunscreen tests in recent years, a mineral sunscreen that provides both top-notch protection and meets its labeled SPF has not been found.

As for water resistant sunscreens, 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, Consumer Reports recommends 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. And reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

CLICK HERE for more sunscreen tips from Consumer Reports.

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