Best sunscreens and how to use them best

May 23, 2013 2:59:38 PM PDT
The Memorial Day weekend is fast approaching, and many people will be spending a lot of time in the sun.

Whether you're going to the shore or just lounging in the backyard. We have some tips on how to find the best sunscreen for you and your family.

Regardless of your age or skin color, everyone needs sunscreen to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet rays.

This year, they have new labels, and dermatologists, like Dr. Erum Ilyas, think it's a change for the better.

"It's going to give consumers a lore more ability to navigate or understand their choices. In the past, it was very difficult - a lot of these sunscreens were very misleading," says Dr. Ilyas of Montgomery Dermatology.

Dr. Ilyas says the important information is right up front.

First, look for 'broad spectrum' - that means the product protects against UVA & UVB rays.

Both cause skin cancer, and the UVA rays are also to blame for aging skin.

Gone are terms like 'sweatproof or 'waterproof'

"It would give somebody the impression that they could be in the water for longer periods of time and not have to reapply their sunscreen," she says.

Instead you'll see 'water resistant' with a time after it.

"That means this product will stay in place, no matter whether you are sweating or swimming, for at least that time period," she says.

Dr. Ilyas says you might want to set the timer on your phone to remind you when to put on more.

She says sprays are more convenient, and offer good coverage, but shouldn't be used for children or directly on the face. Instead, spray the sunscreen onto your hands, then apply to the face.

The Food & Drug Administration is still studying sprays to see if they are a breathing hazard.

And we asked if there is a difference between a 30 SPF and ones with higher numbers.

Dr. Ilyas, says with a smile," Not much, to be honest with you, probably only a matter of a couple percentage points. We find that an SPF of 30 really does give you well over 96 percent protection from the sun."

"Reapplying is more important, really," she added.

Consumer Reports tested a dozen sunscreens and found that cheaper ones are better than the more expensive ones.

Among their top picks were:

*Target Up & Up Sport SPF 50

*Equate UltraProtection SPF 50 - which is from Walmart

*Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50

They also picked:

Coppertone Water Babies 50 SPF lotion

Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch SPF 30

Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30

But Consumer Reports does have a big caveat - the real sun protection may not match the number posted on the label.

This year's tests showed a bigger gap between the claimed and actual values on products than in the past.

One of the 2012 'top picks' was one of the lowest-rated products this year.

Dr. Ilyas says she is often asked if last year's sunscreen can be used this year. Possibly, because the FDA requires that sunscreens maintain their protection for 3 years. However, it's best to get a fresh supply every year, and pitch the product if it has separated or changed color.

Whichever product you use, don't forget to add a hat and other protective clothing.