From Our 2012 Archives
Consumer Reports Rates Best Sunscreen Buys
18 Top-Selling Products Tested; Price Doesn't Reflect Performance
By Cari Nierenberg
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
May 25, 2012 -- With any luck, the Memorial Day weekend will bring weather good enough to be slathering on the sunscreen at least every two hours when outdoors.
And to know which are the best products to put on your skin during the unofficial start of summer, the May issue of Consumer Reports rated 18 top-selling sunscreens. The products ranged from SPF 30 to SPF 75+ and were lotions, sprays, or a spray foam. They varied in price from a low of $.59 an ounce to a high of $20.59 per ounce.
To judge the performance of each product, sunscreens were tested on people, and the ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation protection was rated before and after swimming in fresh water for up to 80 minutes. Testers also checked whether the product stained clothing.
In addition, they did a new "critical wavelength" test required by the FDA to see if the sunscreen truly offered broad-spectrum UVA and UVB protection. UVB radiation is the main cause of sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate deeper, where they can cause long-term damage and age skin.
Top 7 Sunscreens
Most products offered good UVB protection, while many helped block UVA rays.
The cheapest sunscreen outscored the most expensive product in the test, leading researchers to conclude that "price had nothing to do with performance."
After testing, Consumer Reports named three of its highest-rated sunscreens as "Best Buys," while four other top-scoring products were "Recommended."
Two sunscreens flunked the "broad spectrum" test:
No matter which product you put on, Consumer Reports offered these tips to help stay safe in the sun:
Read labels and ingredients carefully. New FDA requirements for sunscreens and other cosmetic products containing an SPF value will soon make it easier for consumers to understand the labels and what claims, such as "broad spectrum" or "water-resistance," really mean.
SOURCES: Consumer Reports, May 2012 issue. News release, Consumer Reports.