Before you rub or spray any sunscreen at the beach, you need to read this: Many sunscreens may not guarantee the protection they provide, according to new research from the Consumer Reports National Research Center.
Researchers tested 20 different water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen lotions and sprays for their effectiveness against UVB radiation (which causes sunburn) and UVA rays (which can lead to aged skin). Sunscreens were applied to test subjects' backs. All of them were supposed to last for 80 minutes of constant water immersion, so researchers tested this by having subjects soak in and out of a tub for that amount of time without re-applying. A sun simulator was used to apply UVB radiation and then UVA radiation. After one day, their skin was examined for redness (signs of UVB) and tanning (signs of UVA).
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So how many products passed the test? Only seven (!) sunscreens performed well enough against both types of radiation to be recommended by Consumer Reports. And interestingly, only two products sampled (one SPF 50 and one SPF 50+) actually provided the SPF protection promised on the packaging. The other sunscreens provided between four percent and 40 percent less UVB coverage than they claimed. More than half of the products tested well for UVA protection.
Such an eye-opener, right? But don't let this news send you into panic mode. Representatives we spoke to at Consumer Report didn't have access to the laboratory's entire methodology, so it's unclear what might have led to these surprising results or if there were any flaws in the studyÃ¢â‚¬”like if subjects toweled off after getting out of the water, accidentally rubbing off some sunscreen. This doesn't necessarily mean that all sunscreen labels are lyingÃ¢â‚¬”it may just mean that following the directions on the label may not always provide the optimal protection for every person in every situation.
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Even though these results may seem a little discouraging, we still know that sunscreen is one of your best defenses against UVA and UVB rays. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends sticking to a water-resistant, broad-spectrum protection (similar to the ones in this study) with SPF 30 or higher. But if you're still getting burned, you should take it up to SPF 50, says Erica Kelly, M.D., an associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Kelly also notes that you should avoid the sun during midday (when UV rays are at their strongest) and reapply sunscreen (about a shot glass amount for every exposed skin area) if you've been sweating a lot, if you've been in the water, or if you've been sitting in the sun for 80 minutes or longer. Remember, even water-resistant sunscreen isn't totally waterproofÃ¢â‚¬”you should still reapply after you towel off. The AAD suggests reapplying after every two hours, but Kelly says you can slather it on more often if necessary.
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