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What’s the best sunscreen?

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 13, 2015

I went to the beach yesterday and it was the best thing ever. But today is slightly less great because my back is sunburned. I stupidly didn’t reapply after swimming. I need to do better. Shannon Palus of The Sweethome recently surveyed the sunscreen landscape and picked the best sunscreen: NO-AD Sport SPF 50.

At 56 cents per ounce, the NO-AD sunscreens cost half as much as their closest competitors. We liked this one best because it has no added fragrance, is water resistant, and consistently placed among the top three during blind application tests by our six-person panel.

But the main takeaway from the article is that people aren’t using enough sunscreen. We don’t apply it liberally enough nor do we reapply as often as you should.

Related: how to identify and avoid rip currents at the beach so you don’t die.

Update: On the other hand, EWG’s Guide to Sunscreens rates the NO-AD Sport very poorly, mainly because of chemicals that “pose a HIGH health concern”. They recommend buying something like Coola Classic Sport SPF 50 or Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 30 instead. The Sweethome review addresses such chemicals, saying that protection from the Sun is much more important:

If you are using a sunscreen that is paraben- or oxybenzone-free because you’re concerned about these chemicals, stop letting those be a factor in your decision-making. As we’ll explain in our ingredients section, there’s far too much alarm out there about the supposed harm sunscreens will do to you if you apply it to your skin. We will work through all the reasons why you shouldn’t be worried below. You should be much more worried about the sun exposure that can result from poor and infrequent application.

A couple of years ago, I bought a sunscreen listed on EWG’s guide. It was expensive, gross-feeling, and difficult to use…the bottle actually ended up breaking with about 1/3 of the contents still trapped inside. The Sweethome review hits on something that seems superficial but is really important: buying sunscreen that works, is affordable (so you will actually reapply), and that you’ll actually use is essential. Buying a more expensive sunscreen with fewer potentially harmful chemicals that feels gross, smells weird, and doesn’t make you want to reapply is going to result in skin damage that will far exceed any potential damage done by chemicals. (thx, brian & tom)