By Jim Donovan: When shopping for sunscreen, SPF (sun protection factor) is usually an important feature for consumers. Consumer Reports recently tested 34 sunscreens and found almost a third of them didn’t meet the SPF claim on their labels, missing the mark by anywhere from 16 to 70 percent.
But there’s good news too: many of the sunscreens Consumer Reports tested met their SPF claims and some of the most effective products were also the lowest-priced. Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 lotion, $10.50 (8 ounces), Equate (Walmart) Ultra Protection SPF 50 lotion, $9 (16 ounces), and Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+, $11 (6 ounces), all delivered top-notch protection and met their SPF claims.
SPF is a relative measure of how long a sunscreen will protect a consumer from UVB rays which can cause sunburn and contribute to damage that can lead to skin cancer. Most dermatologists and other experts recommend using a sunscreen that delivers an SPF of 30 or higher, which blocks 97 percent or more of the sun’s UVB rays.
Consumer Reports found that eight of the eleven sunscreens that didn’t meet their SPF claims had an SPF below 30. For example, Yes To Cucumbers Natural SPF 30 had an average SPF of just 14. Sunscreens from Babyganics, Banana Boat, CVS, EltaMD, Hawaiian Tropic, Walgreens, and Vanicream also had SPF levels below their claims and less than SPF 30.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires sunscreen manufacturers to test their products and label them correctly,” said Trisha Calvo, Health and Food Deputy Content Editor for Consumer Reports. “Our findings are troubling because consumers may not be getting the amount of SPF protection they think they’re getting. On top of that, people often do not apply the right amount of sunscreen, fail to reapply it frequently enough, and don’t minimize their sun exposure, which could potentially put them at risk for overexposure to the sun’s rays.
The full report, which also features proper sunscreen-applications tips, complete product Ratings, and more, is available in the July 2015 issue of Consumer Reports and at www.ConsumerReports.org.