Karen Belz
July 08, 2016 1:59 pm

These years, we’re all getting a lot smarter about our skin. Growing up, some of us used baby oil to try and get a deeper tan, failing to realize how incredibly dangerous this practice was. Now (and forever, hopefully) the trend is to lather up with sunscreen that has a strong SPF, since skin cancer is a real risk that has the potential of affecting every one of us.

So, that’s why this news is a bit upsetting — it turns out that your favorite sunscreen might not be working as well as you think it is.

Northwestern University recently did a study that was printed in JAMA Dermatology that profiled 65 of the highest ranking sunscreens sold on Amazon, and evaluated them based on their ability to stop harmful UVA and UVB rays, their water resistance, and of course, their SPF. Out of this sample, a whopping 40% didn’t meet the guidelines stated by the American Academy of Dermatology.

It turns out, a lot of these sunscreens aren’t as water-resistant as we imagine — and when we’re at the beach (a prime location for sunscreen) we’re dealing with water quite a bit. That means that the best thing to do would be to reapply it after hitting the ocean, or if you’re feeling a bit sweaty based on being outside. Many brands that claimed they were water-proof really didn’t stand up to the test.

Another thing that was mentioned in the study? So many sunscreens are horrifically overpriced. While we all have a preference, sunscreen should really just serve one purpose — to block out the rays and protect our skin — so fancy, expensive types won’t really work any better than lotion you’d find at a discount. Good to know.

What can you do about this?

The best way to get the most out of your sunscreen is to keep applying it, even though it might be a pain to remember. WebMD suggests finding something with a SPF of at least 15, as it’ll block out 93% of UVB rays. However, those with very fair skin should go no lower than SPF 30, which blocks 97% — as far as UVA rays go, you’ll want to check out the ingredients of your sunscreen. WebMD notes that a good sunscreen will include either oxybenzone, sulisobenzone, titanium dioxide, ecamsule, avobenzone, or zinc oxide. UVA rays won’t necessarily cause sunburn like UVB rays, but they definitely cause skin to wrinkle and become damaged over time.

Be safe this summer, and always make sure you’re on top of your skincare routine — you’ll be thankful for it later!