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SPF 15 or 50? Spray or lotion? All natural or normal? How to choose the best summer sunscreen.

Posted at 4:11 PM, May 28, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-28 16:11:59-04

Summer is right around the corner and people will be spending more time outdoors, but all the extra sunshine increases exposure to dangerous UVA and UVB rays.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types, and the American Cancer Society has guidelines about sunscreen protection.

Alyssa Halter knows the importance of choosing the right sunscreen. She's had two melanoma, four basal cell carcinomas and one dysplastic. Halter's health blog encourages others to protect themselves from the sun's ray.

"My spots were dark freckles. They weren't three dimensional. They weren't these scary, scabby moles you see," said Halter.

But which sunscreen is best?

The Environmental Working Group reviewed hundreds of commercially available sunscreens and ranked them according to protection and cost.

Water resistant sunscreens are always recommended. Products labeled "broad spectrum" protect against dangerous UVA and UVB rays. SPF 50 is generally considered top-of-the-line protection.

"There's not a linear, but an exponential growth," said Halter. "If you go from 15 to 30, your level of sun protection dramatically increases, but from 30 to 50, you get a little increase, but not much."


D. Tanya Kormeili is a clinical dermatology trainer at UCLA. She says always reach for sunscreen lotion over spray-on.

"You may not be putting enough on you to get a thick enough coating to protect you, and you may need to reapply even faster because you didn't deposit as much sunscreen," said Dr. Kormeili. "There are some questions with certain brands with the inhalation of these chemicals into the lungs, especially for children's sake."

Fans of natural-branded sunscreens should look for products that contain zinc and titanium. Dr. Kormeili says sunscreens are only as good as their ingredients.

"The scars aren't worth it," said Halter.

Some products can cost upwards of $100, but dermatologists say expensive doesn't translate to effective.