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Print

Release Date: 05/23/2013

Consumer Reports: Store Brands from Target and Walmart Top Latest Sunscreen Ratings

Tests find some products don’t meet SPF claims; paying more for sunscreen may not buy more protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays

CR July 2013 CoverYONKERS, NY — In Consumer Reports’ latest Ratings of sunscreens, Up & Up (Target) Sport SPF 50 spray and Equate (Walmart) Ultra Protection SPF 50 lotion earned the highest scores in tests and were among the least expensive. Some of the priciest sunscreens Consumer Reports tested offered less than their labeled SPF value, a measure of protection from burning UVB rays.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now has new rules governing sunscreens.  According to the agency, one of the most important requirements is the testing and labeling that identifies sunscreens that are “broad spectrum.” Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen should offer protection against UVB and UVA rays.

All of Consumer Reports’ top-rated sunscreens offer broad spectrum protection based on its tests. The full report, which includes Ratings of all 12 sunscreens tested, is featured in the July 2013 issue of Consumer Reports and is available at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports evaluated 12 sunscreens for their effectiveness at protecting against UVA and UVB rays – both of which can cause skin cancer. Six sunscreens, including the top-scoring products from Target and Walmart, Coppertone Water Babies 50 lotion and Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 (another store brand) rated very good overall. They guarded against UVB rays before and after 80 minutes under water and were very good against UVA rays – all at a cost $1.67 or less per ounce.

Tests also showed that paying more may not buy more protection—the least effective sunscreens were among the priciest. Both Badger Unscented SPF 34 lotion and All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30 lotion were poor at guarding against UVB rays. These products cost $5.52 and $4.33 per ounce respectively.  Badger Unscented SPF 34 lotion has been discontinued but may still be available for purchase online or in stores.

In addition, while there are potential safety concerns associated with several sunscreen ingredients based on animal study findings, Consumer Reports continues to recommend the use of sunscreen as part of a broad approach to sun protection.

Sun protection

Consumer Reports suggests using one of the six recommended sunscreens or choosing a product that claims broad spectrum protection, has a claimed SPF of at least 40, and is water resistant.  To stay safe, limit time in the sun,  reapply  sunscreen  every  two  hours  while  outdoors,  and  if  possible,  wear protective clothing, a hat, and sunglasses. And keep in mind the following tips when using any sunscreen:

  • Proper application. Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Use at least 2 to 3 tablespoons of lotion to cover exposed skin. For sprays, use as much as can be rubbed in, then repeat. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. Avoid using sprays directly on kids. Adults should spray sunscreen onto their own hands before applying to their face. Sprays are flammable so allow them to dry before going near an open flame.

  • Proper storage. Don’t store sunscreen in a hot car—it may degrade faster. Skiers take note: once frozen, sunscreens may lose effectiveness. The FDA requires manufacturers to provide an expiration date or show that a product will remain stable (but not necessarily maintain its SPF) for at least three years.  Consumers who buy sunscreen without an expiration date should write the date of purchase on the bottle, and toss it once it’s two years old.

Consumer Reports is the world’s largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

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