Best sunscreens for maximum skin protection

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Consumer Reports tested many popular sunscreens and found many don't deliver the same SPF they claim to on the bottle's label!

When you live in sunny Southern California, you rely on sunscreen to save your skin.

Consumer Reports tested 20 sprays and lotions that claim to be water resistant and provide "broad spectrum" protection.

"Broad spectrum means they should protect against two types of ultraviolet rays: UVB rays, which cause sunburn, and UVA rays, which are linked to skin aging. Both types contribute to skin cancer," said Jamie Kopf, senior associate health editor at Consumer Reports.

To test, Consumer Reports applied sunscreen to panelists' backs and had them soak in a tub for 80 minutes. Then the panelists were exposed to UVA rays.

Eighteen of the 20 sunscreens tested came in below the SPF they promise on their packages, although except for two they did provide adequate protection.

"We can't say why our test results differ from the manufacturers'. In some cases we found the SPF was off by just a little. But two sunscreens were off by much more," said Kopf.

Beyond Coastal Natural claimed an SPF of 30, but testers found its SPF was below 15. Banana Boat Kids' SPF was also below 15, thought it claimed an SPF of 50.

The tests also found several of the sunscreens less effective than others at protecting against UVA rays.

Consumer Reports did find seven sunscreens to recommend:

  • Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 from Walmart, a Consumer Reports Best Buy at $9

  • Up & Up Sport SPF 50 spray from Target, a Consumer Reports Best Buy at $8

  • BullFrog Water Armor Sport InstaCool SPF 50 spray

  • Well at Walgreens Sport SPF 50 spray

  • Banana Boat Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110 spray

  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 lotion

  • Neutrogena Ultimate Sport SPF 70 lotion


A number of studies have shown people under apply spray on sunscreen. Experts suggest applying two coats and rubbing it in to make sure you get optimal coverage. And try not to inhale fumes.


Related Topics:
healthconsumer reportshealthy livingsunscreenskin care
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