Whether you’re headed to the beach, camping, or having a backyard barbecue, two products can help keep your skin safe this summer: sunscreen and insect repellent. But which brands work best?
Our tests of 12 sunscreens found four sprays, including one CR Best Buy, that protected a shade better than the rest. Our trained sensory testers also evaluated how the products felt, smelled, and rubbed in or sprayed on (available to subscribers). The four best sunscreens provided Very Good UVA protection and Excellent UVB protection, and met their SPF claim even after treated skin was immersed in water for 80 minutes. Whatever sunscreen you choose, make sure it has an SPF of at least 30 (plenty for most people), and that it is labeled water resistant.To keep ticks and mosquitoes at bay, our recent tests of 10 insect repellents found six that protected against deer ticks and two common types of mosquitoes for seven hours or more. Four of those contain deet in varying levels. The Environmental Protection Agency judges deet safe when used as directed, but it has caused rare toxic reactions when misused. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises against using repellents with deet concentrations higher than 30 percent on children. We think that no one needs a repellent with more than 30 percent deet. The active ingredient in Repel is oil of lemon eucalyptus. (It's not recommended for children under 3.) Almost as effective was Natrapel, which protects with picaridin, a chemical newer than deet.
Read more on how and when to apply sunscreen. Follow these directions when applying insect repellent:
- Use your hands to apply it to your face, avoiding your eyes and mouth, and don't apply it to cuts.
- Use just enough to cover exposed skin.
- Some directions suggest using it on clothes, but most tested repellents damaged leather and vinyl, and some of them stained synthetic fabrics.
- Wash repellent off your skin and launder treated clothes.
Finally, take our quiz if you want to know what those ingredients in your sunscreen are all about.