We count on sunscreens to protect us from the sun's harmful UV rays. The higher the SPF - the better the protection. Right?
Not necessarily. Consumer Reports tested a dozen sunscreens - both lotions and sprays. This test measures sunburn protection from UVB rays.
That's what SPF is supposed to tell you.
"Most of the sunscreens we tested provided less protection than the SPF listed on the container," Sue Booth of Consumer Reports said.
These days you'll also see the words "broad spectrum" on many sunscreens.
"Broad spectrum means sunscreens are supposed to protect not just against UVB rays, but UVA rays as well," Booth said.
Both types of rays can cause skin cancer, and UVA rays can wrinkle and age your skin.
Consumer Reports' lab tests performed both on people and on test plates coated with sunscreen found some products offer better protection than others for both UVA and UVB rays. It has six sunscreens to recommend.
Top-rated is a spray from Target - Up and Up Sport broad spectrum SPF 50.
"Spray sunscreens are convenient, but the risks of inhaling them are still being studied. So we don't recommend spraying children. And don't spray directly on your face," Booth said.
If you prefer a lotion, Consumer Reports named one from Walmart a Best Buy. It's Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50.
It offers better protection than several sunscreens tested that cost much more. Consumer Reports has one more note of caution about sprays - they are flammable. So wait for the spray to dry before going near an open flame.
With any sunscreen, you should apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before you head into the sun and reapply it after you take a swim or every two hours.