Some Sunscreens Perform Below SPF Protection Claims, Increasing Risk Of Sun Exposure

Sunscreen
A new study from Consumer Reports finds nearly a third of sunscreens tested had SPF protection lower than what their labels claimed. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

A new Consumer Reports study suggests some of our pandering about the importance of sunscreen may have been for nothing. Because what’s the point of wearing sunscreen when it’s not actually protecting you from anything? Roughly a third of tested sunscreens failed to deliver the amount of SPF protection their labels said.

Testing the sunscreens specifically against UVA and UVB rays, the consumer watchdog magazine applied the sunscreens onto participants’ backs and then submerged them in water for the amount of time the labels said they’d be protected — an hour, for example. Once that time was over, the participants were exposed to the rays in order to determine how effective the sunscreens were.

The magazine used sunscreens that ranged in price points from drugstore brands to European skin care products. Out of 34 tested water-resistant sunscreens, 11 provided protection 16 to 70 percent below what their labels said. For example, Yes to Cucumbers Natural Sunscreen claimed an SPF of 30, but only provided an SPF of 14. Meanwhile, CVS’ Baby Pure and Gentle Lotion with an SPF of 60 only averaged an SPF of 18, while Vanicream Broad Spectrum claimed an SPF of 50 and up, but only averaged an SPF of 17.

“Our findings are troubling because consumers may not be getting the amount of SPF they think they’re getting,” Trisha Calvo, health and food deputy content editor for Consumer Reports, told the NY Post.  

The magazine also found an issue with so-called “natural” sunscreens, which are typically made with either zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, or both. Only two of five tested met SPF claims, and still, they didn’t score high enough to be recommended to consumers — these were California Baby Super Sensitive SPF 30+ and Goddess Garden Organics Sunny Body Natural 30, Yahoo Health reported. Despite being marketed as less likely to irritate skin, Consumer Reports said they were also “less likely to provide protection from cancer-causing UVA and UVB rays.”

In response to the study, the Personal Care Products Council, a trade group representing sunscreen brands, said Consumer Reports used a testing method different from the FDA’s official sunscreen test. It’s unclear whether or not this is true.

The American Cancer Society predicts there will be an additional 73,000 cases of melanoma skin cancer in the U.S. by the end of 2015. Though it’s only a small portion of the 3.5 million cases of skin cancer in the U.S., it’s also the most aggressive form, responsible for 10,000 of over 13,000 deaths. Sunscreen is integral to protecting ourselves from the sun, but so is avoiding the sun at its hottest hours of the day and wearing clothing to protect the skin.

Here’s a list of Consumer Reports’ top 15 sunscreen choices for 2015:

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk, SPF 60

  • Vichy Capital Soleil 50 Lightweight Foaming Lotion, SPF 50, at $5.94 an ounce

  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50

  • Equate Ultra Protection, SPF 50

  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50

  • Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish, SPF 30

  • Aveeno Protect+Hydrate, SPF 30

  • Up & Up Ultra Sheer, SPF 30

  • Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray, SPF 50+

  • L'Oreal Quick Dry Sheer Finish (spray) 50+

  • Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray, SPF 30

  • Equate Sport Continuous Spray, SPF 30

  • Coppertone UltraGuard, SPF 70+

  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection, SPF 70

  • Caribbean Breeze Continuous Tropical Mist (spray), SPF 70

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