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Consumer Reports Says Some Sunscreen SPF Claims Are Inaccurate


Just when you finally got in the habit of remembering to put on sunscreen every day (you do, right?), a new Consumer Reports study comes out that may make you rethink your usage. The report, published this week, tested 20 popular brands of sunscreen and found that only two worked as they were labelled. The other 18 either fell short on SPF protection or weren't "broad spectrum" even though the labels identified them as such. 

The full report recommends seven products, which it says are good to excellent. Only BullFrog and Coppertone provided the SPF protection promised on the bottle, but the others were close. Even more interesting about the list (below) is the number of cheaper sunscreens that tested as well as, or better, than pricier name brands.

  • BullFrog WaterAmor Sport InstaCool SPF 50 (provides full SPF promised on the label)
  • Coppertone Sensitive Skin SPF 50 (provides full SPF promised on the label)
  • Banana Boat
  • Equate (Walmart's house brand)
  • Neutrogena
  • Up & Up (Target's house brand)
  • Well (Walgreens' house brand)

Don't worry if your favorite brand didn't make the list. Consumer Reports only looked at 20 products, so yours might not have been tested.

RELATED: The Best Sun Protection Products of 2014

This is why David E. Bank, M.D., the director of the Center of Dermatology, Cosmetic, and Laser Surgery, recommends taking back-up measures to protect your skin. In addition to sunscreen, he advises his patients to cover up with hats, sunglasses, and additional clothing whenever possible. He also tells them to avoid direct sunlight for long periods of time.

"Always wear sunscreen when outside," he cautions. "It only takes minutes for unprotected skin to start to develop a sunburn, although you may not see it for a few hours." His favorite is Neutrogena Dry Touch SPF 45 broad-spectrum (which was not tested in this study), as it's easy to layer under makeup and won't clog up your pores. 

Consumer Reports also noted that spray sunscreens seemed to be more effective than typical lotions, but Banks says there really isn't any science to back that up. Instead he says that it's just a matter of preference—sprays are easier to apply and aren't as greasy as lotions, but lotions offer a more even application. Always look for a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays, and find one that works for your skin type.

But whatever you do, don't freak out and quit sunscreen. Melanoma is still the most common cancer found in young adults, so it's important that sunscreen is a part of your sun-protection strategy. And remember: Sun exposure adds up quickly, so to reap the full protective benefits, you have to reapply sunscreen (most doctors recommend about 1 ounce, or enough to fill a shot glass) every two hours or so. These 17 sticks, sprays, and lotions are guaranteed to keep you out of the red all summer long.


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