Save face (and arm, leg, torso...you get the idea) with these safe and expert-approved SPFs.

Karla Walsh; Reviewed by Jess Ball, M.S., R.D.
May 21, 2020
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With Memorial Day unofficially kicking off summer, and with quarantine season 2 months in, many Americans are itching to enjoy the great outdoors. But as you prepare to head out, don't forget to cover up.

Far too many of us don't: About 5 in 6 men and 2 in 3 women fail to regularly apply sunscreen prior to being in the sun for more than one hour, reports the CDC.

To make it easier to stock up on safe sunscreens, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released their 14th Annual Sunscreen Guide. The non-profit put more than 1,300 SPF products through the paces and found that only about 25% offer enough protection—and avoid questionable ingredients—to be safe (for you and the environment) and effective.

Check out the approved products here:

The EWG also offers a handy search tool at the top of each category's list so you can check up on any products that you already own.

To get Sunscreen Guide-approved, each spray or lotion must meet this criteria below, which is helpful for us all to keep in mind as we spend more (SPF-protected) time in the sun.

5 Tips to Pick a Safer Sunscreen

Seek out broad-spectrum UVA protection.

There are two types of ultraviolet (UV) rays produced by the sun's energy. UVB rays cause surface damage and burning, while UVA rays dive deeper and lead to skin aging. While UVA and UVB can both harm cells, UVA penetrates the skin to genetically alter cells at layers that are more likely to be impacted by skin cancers. Plus, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays account for 95 percent of total UV that reaches the earth.

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Stick to SPF 50.

Anything that claims to protect more rays than that "give users a false sense of protection, leading to overexposure to UVA rays that increase the risk of long-term skin damage and cancer," says the EWG. That's because a crazy-high number (say, 100 SPF) may lead people to believe they can safely stay in the sun for hours longer than a SPF 50, when that's not the case.

Plus, these mainly focus on blocking those UVB rays (that lead to burning) rather than UVA ones (which, as we mentioned, are more prominent and more potentially carcinogenic).

As a refresher, the SPF of a sunscreen explains how long the UV rays might take to redden your skin when the product is used exactly as directed. So if you apply a SPF 50, it would take 50 times longer for your skin to burn compared to using no skin protection.

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Stick with sunscreen rather than combo products.

Use a separate insect repellant, if needed, rather than a spray or lotion that claims to protect from rays and pests all at once.

Avoid oxybenzone.

This occasional sunscreen ingredient is a potential allergen, has been found to be absorbed into the skin (for days after application) and might make its way into your bloodstream and disrupt the function of your endocrine system, the EWG explains. Instead, look for zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Current research says that these sunscreen active ingredients are safe for human use.

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