The May Issue of Consumer Reports has rated eighteen of the top-selling sunscreens and found that price is no indication of performance. Some of the most hyped sunscreens, including one for kids, failed in tests of broad spectrum coverage and could leave you vulnerable to damaging sun-rays causing skin cancer.
Find out what to slather on your skin to keep it naturally healthy this summer and how best to protect yourself from skin cancer and sunburn.
Sun, Skin Cancer, and Sunscreens
We all know that the sun can damage our skin, cause sunburn, peeling, pain, and inflammation, as well as increasing the risk for skin cancer with every sunburn we get. Unfortunately, the marketing used by sunscreen manufacturers can lead us to buy sunscreen that is not actually as protective as we would like.
Consumer Reports’ latest run-down of sunscreens looked at products ranging from SPF 30 to SPF 75+ in the form of sun lotions, sun sprays, and even spray foam. The products included in the research spanned a wide range of prices, from $.59 per ounce to $20.59 per ounce. Perhaps not surprisingly, the higher priced products did not naturally equate with efficacy and the cheapest of the bunch turned out to get top marks from testers.
UVA and UVB Protection
The research conducted by Consumer Reports included assessment of the sunscreens’ ultraviolet B radiation protection before and after volunteer testers swam in fresh water for up to eighty minutes. The sunscreen testers also noted the degree to which the sunscreens stained their clothing, if at all, and the researchers did an additional test for ultraviolet A radiation protection.
This new critical wavelength test is required by the FDA for sunscreen approval as it is the UVA rays which are responsible for long-term skin damage in the deeper tissue (UVB radiation is the main cause of sunburn).
The Best Sunscreens
Of those sunscreens tested, seven were deemed to offer good protection against UVB radiation, with many also helping protect against UVA rays. The cheapest sunscreen, No-Ad, which also contains aloe and vitamin E and which has an SPF of 45, outscored the most expensive sunscreen. The three best-buys and recommended sunscreens were No-Ad, along with Walgreens continuous spray sport (SPF 50) and Coppertone’s oil-free foaming spray.
Four other sunscreens were also recommended: All Terrain Aqua Sport lotion SPF 30, Banana Boat clear ultra-mist sports performance active dry protect spray, Coppertone sport high performance ultra sweat-proof spray, and Eco all natural sunscreen body lotion. These four ranged in price from $1.67 per ounce to $4.72 per ounce, whereas the three best-buys were $.59 per ounce to $1.67 per ounce.
You might want to check your bathroom cabinet for the two sunscreens that failed the broad-spectrum test and grab a best-buy sunscreen instead. Those that failed were Alba Botanical’s natural very emollient sunblock sport SPF 45 and the popular and heavily advertised Banana Boat Kids tear-free, sting-free SPF 50+.
Extra advice given by Consumer Report for staying sun-safe this summer includes:
- Using waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 30 or above
- Not being stingy with sunscreen – use 2-3tbsps every two hours
- Apply additional sunscreen after swimming, towel drying, or sweating heavily
- Don’t simply rely on sunscreen, also wear a hat and protective clothing
- Avoid using sunscreen sprays for kids as the effects of inhaling sunscreen are unknown (spray onto hands and rub in if sunscreen spray is all you have
- If pregnant, avoid sunscreens containing retinyl palmitate as there is a potential for toxicity and congenital abnormalities.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is gradually introducing regulation to help customers understand sunscreen labelling, with claims such as ‘waterproof’, ‘water-resistant’, and ‘broad spectrum’ needing to adhere to specific standards in the future before being able to be proclaimed on products.
In the meantime, choose your sunscreen wisely, be it a full mineral sunblock, or one of the best-buys listed in Consumer Reports May Issue. Don’t just dismiss less expensive sunscreens in favour of shiny chic packaging as it seems that when it comes to choosing sunscreens and having naturally healthy skin, cheap is not always nasty.