COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When it comes to the sunscreen you're putting on your body, do you know if it actually works?
According to a new Consumer Reports investigation, that SPF number may not be as good as you think. Of the more than 60 lotions, sprays, sticks, and lip balms testing for the ratings this year, 23 tested at less than their labeled SPF number.
In fact, a bargain buy like Walmart's brand "Equate" SPF 50 lotion sunscreen ranked excellent with an overall score of 99/100. Meanwhile, a well-known brand like CeraVe's SPF 50 body lotion got an overall score of 17, while almost tripling the price.
The UV index is on a scale of 0-11, according to the EPA. A UV index reading of 0-2 means the danger is low for the average person, while the agency still recommends covering up and using broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen.
A UV index reading of 11+ is deemed "extreme," meaning unprotected skin and eyes can burn within minutes. The EPA recommends avoiding sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and if you are outdoors, wear protective clothing, seek shade, wear a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
An easy way to see how much UV exposure you're getting is to look for your shadow. If it's taller than you are in the early morning or late afternoon, your UV exposure is likely lower. But, if your shadow is shorter than you are around midday, then you are being exposed to higher levels of UV radiation.
A common mistake many people make is not reapplying sunscreen soon enough. Consumer Reports found that on average, people usually reapplied sunscreen did so every 3.36 hours. The recommended time for reapplication is every 2 hours.
Along those lines, waterproof sunscreen does need to be reapplied after you're in the water. Now, according to new FDA regulations, companies must label sunscreens as "water-resistant" versus "waterproof."
You're still protected for about 40 to 80 minutes after being in the water, but it's important to reapply.