When used correctly, sunscreens are designed to protect you against sunburns and skin cancer. However, new reports paint a dire picture of sunscreen products.
The nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s 12th annual sunscreen guide found 67 percent of products tested didn’t work well or contained potentially harmful ingredients.
In addition, Consumer Reports’ annual sunscreen buying guide found that about a third, or 24 of 73, tested at less than half of the SPF on their labels.
New York dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe believes not all sunscreens are made equal. To pick out a trusted product, she recommends you start by looking for three important things on the label: Broad-spectrum, an SPF of 30 or higher and water resistant.
“So broad spectrum means its covering against both UVA and UVB rays, so think A for aging and B for burn,” Bowe told Fox News.
One thing Bowe said many consumers often overlook, which can hinder sunscreen protection, is that the lotions do have an expiration date.
“Most sunscreens are designed to last about three years before they expire, but that’s only if you keep the sunscreen in a cool, dry, location,” Bowe explained.
“So what do most people do with their sunscreens? They bring it to the beach, they leave it on a towel baking in the sun, they leave it in their hot car, then all bets are off, because those ingredients are going to break down and then they’re not only not effective, [but] you can burn through them. My rule of thumb is buy new sunscreens every season.”
Expired sunscreens can also potentially cause irritations or a rash on the skin, she added.
Below, see Bowe's top picks, including lotions, sprays and sticks, for both adults and children.
Sunscreen for adults:
La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin SPF 60 Sunscreen, $19.99; at La Roche-Posay
“It has the words ‘clear skin’ on it, [and] it’s great for acne prone skin,” Bowe said, who is an expert advisor to both La Roche-Posay and Aveeno brands.
“It basically doesn’t clog the pores and it has a little bit of a matte finish so it doesn’t leave you with that shiny sort of look a couple hours after applying it.”
Coppertone Clearly Sheer Whipped Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50, $14.99; at Target
“A really great drug store brand that I love to throw in my beach bag is made by Coppertone, it’s actually a whipped sunscreen. It’s really fun to use and one of the mistakes people make when it comes to using sunscreens is that they don’t use enough and this one comes out and actually looks like whip cream so you end up using about as much as you actually should,” Bowe said.
When it comes to applying sunscreen, you want to shoot for a shot glass full, or about 2 ounces to cover your face as well as your other exposed areas, and you want to reapply that same amount every two hours if the skin is dry, Bowe explained.
SuperGoop City Sunscreen Serum SPF 30, $42.00; at Supergoop
“It’s a great multi-tasker because not only does it act as a moisturizer and a sunscreen but it also has anti-oxidants in it so it protects the skin from environmental stressors like pollution so it’s great for anti-aging and sun protection.”
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, $65.00; Colorescience
“It’s actually a brush on powder and it comes in a travel size so you can just throw it in your pocketbook if you’re going to go out to lunch or drive a little bit in between offices. You can brush it right on top of your makeup, and it’s great for reapplication.”
Sunscreens for kids:
Baby Bum SPF 50 Mineral Face Stick, $9.99; at Baby Bum
“It’s a face stick, [and] it’s this little cute thing that’s perfect for tiny little noses, tiny little lips, tiny little ears and its really fun for the kids to get involved too. It’s not like a messy sunscreen so I can hand that to a little child and let them get involved in the sunscreen process.”
Aveeno Baby Continuous Protection Sensitive Skin Lotion SPF 50, $10.97; at Walmart
“I love this one because it has an oat extract so it’s really soothing and gentle even for the most sensitive skin and it doesn’t lead to tears if it gets in the eyes. That’s huge for those of you who are parents, because I am, and it’s just a meltdown if it gets in the eyes.”
There is also a new trend of glitter sunscreens for kids, Bowe said. “It remains to be seen how these perform on independent testers like Consumer Reports but it certainly is fun, and for kids who are reluctant to put on sunscreen that may be an added incentive to make it a little bit more glamorous.”
If you want to be extra cautious with your little ones, Bowe recommends wearing rash guards with UPF 50, wide brimmed hats and sunglasses and to practice safe sun behaviors like seeking shade between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest.