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Release Date: 05/20/2014

Consumer Reports Tests Raise Questions About Some Sunscreens Claimed SPF Protection

Many provide excellent protection from UVA and UVB rays; Five common myths about sunscreen debunked

CR July 2014 CoverYONKERS, NY ― When it comes to sunscreen, SPF (sun protection factor) is the feature that influences consumers’ purchasing decision most. In its tests of 20 sunscreens, Consumer Reports found two products – BullFrog WaterAmor Sport InstaCool SPF 50+ and Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50 – that provided the SPF promised on the label.

The full report and Ratings of sunscreens can be found in the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

Consumer Reports is recommending seven sunscreens from Banana Boat, BullFrog, Coppertone, Equate (Walmart), Neutrogena, Up & Up (Target) and Well (Walgreens). While not all of them met the SPF claimed on their labels, the recommended sunscreens all provided very good to excellent protection overall as well as against UVA and UVB rays individually.

Seven other sunscreens received only fair for protection against UVA rays, which are linked to aging skin and skin cancer. And three sunscreens received fair to poor ratings for UVB protection. UVB rays cause sunburn and skin cancer.

The Truth about Sunscreen

There are many misconceptions when it comes to sunscreen. Consumer Reports examined a handful of myths and sought to set the record straight. Below are a few featured in the report:

  • The FDA tests sunscreens before they hit store shelves. The Food and Drug Administration requires sunscreen manufacturers to test their products, but it doesn’t verify the testing, require manufacturers to report results, or do premarket testing itself. The agency does require sunscreen manufacturers to meet certain standards for the use of the following terms on labels: SPF, broad spectrum, and water-resistant.

  • Kids need a special formula. The FDA doesn’t make a distinction between kids’ sunscreen and others, or hold it to a higher safety standard. Manufacturers use the same active ingredients, sometimes in the same concentration, in both types. Some sunscreens for children (and adult sunscreens for sensitive skin) contain only the minerals zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredients, because they may be less irritating to skin than sunscreens containing chemicals, such as avobenzone. Some kids’ products do, however, contain chemical sunscreens. 

  • Spray sunscreens provide the best coverage. If used correctly, spray sunscreens are protective. But it can be hard for someone to judge the amount of sunscreen they are using, and that can lead to much less protection. Spray pattern can make a difference, too. Inhaling spray sunscreen could cause lung irritation, and, when inhaled, titanium dioxide is a possible carcinogen. And flammability is a danger when sprays are used near an open flame.

For the full report and Ratings of 20 sunscreens tests, check out the July 2014 issue of Consumer Reports and www.ConsumerReports.org.

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