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How to buy sunscreen without getting burned!

  • Consumer Reports puts sunscreens to the test
  • A higher price tag doesn't mean better protection

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. And if you're going to the beach or just spending time outside, sunscreen is a must. But which brand offers the best protection? Here's a hint: don't let the price tag be your guide.

Consumer Reports put 12 sunscreens to the test and found the best ones were among the least expensive. The sunscreens were judged for their effectiveness at blocking UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause skin cancer. This "broad spectrum" protection is among the requirements spelled out by new federal rules on sunscreen.

The top-rated sunscreens in Consumer Reports testing were store brands -- Up & Up (Target) and Equate (Walmart). Both have an SPF rating of 50 and cost $1.67 or less per ounce. Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 and Coppertone Water Babies 50 also rated "very good" overall at a similar price.

By comparison, two of the most expensive sunscreens, Badger Unscented SPF 34 ($5.52 per ounce) and All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30 ($4.33 per ounce) were the least effective against UVB rays.

Keep in mind, sunscreen isn't just for the beach. You should slather it on if you're going to be outside for any length of time, whether you're playing golf, manning the grill, going for a walk or mowing the lawn. Consumer Reports recommends applying sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go outside, and again after two hours. You should also reapply sunscreen immediately after swimming.


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