Every year, you hear something different about sunscreen – it's essential, it's toxic, they're all the same, SPF values are nothing but hype. We decided to cut through the noise and go to the experts. First, it pays to know what you're buying – not all sunscreens are created equal, and some are worthless. "It's fine to pick up any sunscreen off the shelf if you don't care about sun safety, premature aging, the health of your skin, or the environment," says Dr. Robert Friedman, a dermatologist at NYU's Langone Medical Center. "But if you care about any of these things or you have sensitive skin, you need to be careful about what you use." How to do that? Follow these rules to get an effective, safe sunscreen. Launch Gallery >>
Photograph by Donna Trope
Save spray-ons for targeted areas (and use only nonaerosol pumps).
Spray-on sunscreens prevent your hands from getting full of lotion, but dermatologists say they scatter too wide and evaporate before glomming onto skin. "Watch a guy spray himself – he'll be engulfed in a cloud of sunscreen, most of which never actually touches his body," says Dr. John E. Wolf Jr., a dermatologist at Baylor College of Medicine. Plus, many sprays are aerosol, and the FDA is still examining whether that poses any health risks such as asthma. Save sprays for targeted areas like bald spots or along your hairline, where lotion can gunk up, says Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, of the Melanoma Research Alliance. Look for a nonaerosol pump like KINeSYS Alcohol-Free Spray Sunscreen SPF 30 ($19; kinesysstore.com), which is also sweat-resistant.
Credit: Getty Images