After a long winter, it's finally time to think about sunscreen (yay!). 

And yet, choosing which sunscreen to use can be overwhelming. What level SPF? Mineral versus chemical? Spray or lotion? Water resistant or sweat resistant? With or without insect repellant? 

The EWG (aka Environmental Working Group) just released its 11th Annual Guide to Sunscreens, which rates the best and the worst sunscreens, and even has the Healthy Living app to help you evaluate what product would be optimum for you and your family.

Sunscreen is your best option for protecting your skin and preventing skin cancer, period; otherwise your skin has to work overtime to repair itself, as this STAT video report shows. Besides, who likes having a lobster-red sunburn?

Here’s a short primer on sunscreens:

  • SPF (aka ‘sun protection factor’):
    • 15 to 30, if you want to tan, though keep in mind that you aren’t protected from skin damage and skin cancer with a low SPF.
    • 30 to 50, if you want to block 98 percent of UVB rays.
    • 50+, seems like this would be the best choice for skin health but there’s no evidence to show that sunscreens with high SPFs are more effective.
  • Mineral versus chemical:
    • Choose a chemical sunscreen (with benzonephenones, PABA, cinnamates, salicylates, digalloyl trioleate, and menthy antranilate), if you prefer lotions that spread easily and disappear readily.
    • Opt for a mineral sunscreen (using zinc oxide or titanium dioxide), if you have sensitive skin and/or you want to avoid chemicals.
  • What you’ll be doing:
    • Swimming, rafting, waterboarding? Water-resistant, and reapply every 60 minutes.
    • Playing soccer or tennis, hiking, gardening? Sweat-resistant, and reapply every 30 minutes.
    • Walking the dog, running errands, lunching al fresco? Regular, and reapply every two hours.
  • Extra protection for your kids’ skin:
    • Keep babies aged 12 months and under out of the sun; their skin is too easily damaged and sensitive.
    • For older children, be vigilant about applying and reapplying sunscreen all day long, and especially between 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is most intense.
  • Stocking up:
    • The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside, and reapplying that same amount every two hours and/or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.

Other sunscreens that are cost-free, chemical-free and have a green footprint include:

  • The Shadow Rule, so if your shadow is longer that you are tall, you’re less like to get a sunburn, and if your shadow is shorter and you stay in the sun too long. . .pull out the aloe vera.
  • A wide-brimmed hat
  • Shade
  • Light-weight long-sleeve shirts and long pants

And, don’t forget:

  • Sunglasses that are designed to filter ultraviolet radiation, for you and the kids.
  • The tops of your feet! Slather the sunscreen on the one body part (aside from the crown of your head and tips of your ears) that receives direct sun, no matter which angle.
  • Post sun-fun skin care, with aloe vera and cool compresses for sunburned areas. If you’re really fried and in pain, try a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.