Just because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration changed its sunscreen regulations doesn’t mean the lotions you buy at the store will actually protect you.
In fact, a 2013 report from a nonprofit watchdog found that only 25 percent of the products on the market really work. More than half of the sunscreens approved by the FDA don't meet European requirements.
Here’s the issue. Many sunscreens use toxic chemicals to protect you from the sun. Plus, sunscreen ratings don’t accurately indicate how the product works against both UVA and UVB rays. (UVA causes skin cancer, skin damage, immune suppression and possibly melanoma. But SPF ratings apply mainly to UVB rays, which just cause a visible burn.)
But don’t panic. There are a few key indicators to look for when you’re buying sunscreen. First, check out the lotion’s effectiveness against UVA, not just UVB. Avoid sunscreen with retinyl palmitate (retinol), which can be harmful to the skin. Stay away from lotions with oxybenzone and don’t buy spray or powder, which can be toxic when inhaled. Forget about tanning oils.
Here are seven of our favorite sunscreens, all of which get top ratings for safety and effectiveness.
Beyond Coastal Active Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 34
This is my go-to sunscreen. It’s easy to apply, doesn’t leave white marks on the skin, and it won’t come off even during a hot, sticky run. 1 oz., $6, beyondcoastal.com
All Terrain Aqua Sport Face Stick, SPF 28
Badger Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 30
With only five ingredients, this zinc oxide-based sunscreen won’t harm coral reefs next time you go snorkeling. It lasts for at least 40 minutes when you’re swimming, but it does have a white tint. 2.9 oz., $16, badgerbalm.com
CVS Baby Sun Lotion Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, SPF 50
Hypoallergenic CVS Baby won’t sting if it gets in your eyes, and it last for 80 minutes in the water. Oil, fragrance, and dye-free. 8 oz., $9, cvs.com.
Coppertone Tattoo Guard Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50
UV rays can fade tattoos. Moisturizing Tattoo Guard protects your ink and the rest of your skin. This hypoallergenic lotion is water resistant for up to 80 minutes. And if you can’t find the tattoo formula, Coppertone’s Waterbabies Pure and Simple will also do the job. 2 oz., $10, coppertone.com
Tropical Sands Lip Sunblock, SPF 30
Tropical Sands is water-resistant, chemical-free, biodegradable, and coral reef-friendly. It’s 100 percent natural with titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as the active ingredients. 0.15 oz., $3, mexitanproducts.com
Juice Beauty Oil-Free Moisturizer, SPF 30
Need a sunscreen that’s also a moisturizer? This one has a combo of non-nano zinc oxide and aloe vera, grape, pomegranate, and algae that hydrates while it clears up blemishes. It helps your skin renew itself, and it won’t clog your pores. 2 oz., $29, juicebeauty.co