Sunshine season: Picking the best sunscreens for your skin, wallet

Consumer Reports tests sunscreens, releases list of best options

We're teaming up with Consumer Reports to list the top sunscreens available for purchase based on their effectiveness and prices.

Summertime is rapidly approaching in Michigan, which means we’ll be seeing much more sunshine. And where there’s sun, there are harmful rays that can significantly damage our skin.

To protect our body’s largest organ from those harmful rays, people should wear sunscreen anytime they’re exposed to the sun -- especially if that exposure lasts for a long period of time.

But with so many types and brands of sunscreen on the market, it can be difficult to know what to buy. Consumer Reports recently put several sunscreens to the test to help identify the best product options available today.

CR tested a variety of sunscreens, assessing their effectiveness when it comes to blocking UVA rays, those that cause aging and skin cancer, and UVB rays, which cause the skin to burn.

What sunscreens are most effective and affordable?

According to Consumer Reports, Equate Ultra Lotion SPF 50 from Walmart is one of the best products available to consumers, as it only costs $5. Other top picks include Kiehl’s Activated Sun Protector Lotion SPF 30, which costs $32, and La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk Lotion SPF 60, which costs $36-$53.

CR panelists also tested sunscreen products for scent, feel and overall appearance.

Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Clear Spray SPF 50 was a particular hit with the panelists, and it also tested well with Consumer Reports overall rating. That product costs $9.50.

Related: What to look for when choosing sunscreen

With the recalls of some aerosol sunscreen products due to contamination with the chemical Benzine, Consumer Reports tested for that too. In fact, CR said that all of the aerosol sunscreens it tested came back negative for Benzine.

Is it best to use lotion sunscreen or aerosol sunscreen?

According to CR, it’s important to choose lotion sunscreen over spray options when it comes to young children. Officials say kids could inhale the mist from the spray, and that it’s more difficult to apply it evenly all over their body.

Adults can choose spray sunscreens if preferred, but know that complete coverage is not always easy to attain, especially in windy conditions, officials said.

General tips

  • Always use a sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher.
  • Always check expiration dates, as expired products aren’t effective.
  • Apply about a teaspoon of sunscreen per body part.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours that you’re in the sun.

Click here to see CR’s list of best sunscreens for 2022.


More: Dermatologist talks sun safety ahead of bright holiday weekend


About the Authors:

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.