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Top 4 Sunscreens for Summer

Consumer Reports releases its annual list of top sun protection picks

Sunblock bottle on the beach with blue sky. UV protection in summer.

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To protect your skin from damage and lower your risk for skin cancer, experts recommend hitting the (lotion) bottle before sun exposure.

En español | Protecting your skin is important year round, not just in the balmy days of summer, but many of us tend to stock up as the weather gets warm. To help your next shopping trip, Consumer Reports (CR) has released its annual report on the best sunscreens, giving its ratings for top brands and insight on what to watch for. 

Sunscreens labeled SPF 30 or higher and water resistance for 80 minutes were tested by CR and "recommended products scored 81 or higher overall and received Excellent or Very Good scores for UVA and UVB protection and variation from SPF," the report states.

Best sunscreens 

The best sunscreen lotions were:

1. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk, $36

2. Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50, $5

3. BullFrog Land Sport Quik Gel SPF 50, $8.50

4. Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 50 Lotion, $9

If you're looking for a spray, the best is Trader Joe's SPF 50+, priced at $6, according to the findings. However, CR notes that risks of inhaling spray-on sunscreen are still being explored. Users should avoid spraying it on children or directly on your face.  

Beware of misleading labels

While manufacturers like to throw fancy names on the label, only three terms are backed up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), dermatologist Whitney Bowe said on ABC's Good Morning America: "Those [terms] are SPF, broad spectrum and water resistant. Broad spectrum is so important because it means it covers both UVA and UVB rays, and both of those can cause skin cancer. But with water resistant, it's important if you're swimming, if you're sweating — maybe not so much if you're going to work."

Other terms, such as sport, natural, mineral and dermatologist recommended, are not regulated.

CR recommends administering about one ounce of sunscreen, or a shot glass full. People with sensitive skin may want to look for brands with fewer chemicals, though they sometimes don't perform as well against the sun. So those users may want to wear a bit extra, Bowe said.

"You want to aim for an SPF of 40 or above, and you want to reapply about every two hours if the skin is dry, and more frequently if you're getting wet," Bowe added.