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Best sunscreens for UVA, UVB protection

July 2, 2009 7:51:15 AM PDT
Most people know that sunscreen is important when heading outdoors, but nearly a third say they never use it, even when they're in the sun for more than four hours.Protecting your skin from the sun is important, and when Eyewitness News teamed up with Consumer Reports, not all sunscreens are created equal.

Nothing beats a day in the pool, but the sun's ultraviolet rays can damage skin and contribute to skin cancer.

Consumer Reports tested 10 sunscreens. Most promise to guard against both UVA and UVB rays.

Testers applied sunscreen to people's skin at an independent lab. After waiting at least 15 minutes, they exposed the skin to UVB radiation or UVA.

All the sunscreens offered good to excellent UVB protection, known as the SPF.

"The SPF, or sun protection factor, tells you how much sun you can handle before burning, compared to wearing no sunscreen at all. We recommend an SPF of at least 30," said Jamie Kopf Hirsh from Consumer Reports.

But after sitting in water, nearly all the sunscreens lost a little UVB protection.

"You want to remember to reapply sunscreen after you swim or work up a sweat, and as a general rule, every two hours," Hirsh said.

When it came to UVA rays, tests showed Banana Boat Kids' Tear Free, with an SPF of 50, was just fair.

Coppertone's Water Babies did well, and adults can use it too.

If you prefer spray, save money by getting Target's Up and Up Sport Sunscreen Continuous Spray with an SPF of 30. It was the least expensive sunscreen tested.

And whether you spray sunscreen on or rub it in, use a generous amount.

Consumer Reports said don't rely on sunscreen alone for protection. Take other precautions, like wearing a hat and tightly woven clothing.

Remember, the best protection is staying in the shade during the hottest part of the day.

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