5 Things You Should Know Before Buying Sunscreen This Year

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Whether you’re hitting the beach, doing yard work, or just out and about in the sun this summer, using sunscreen to protect your skin is generally a good idea. But not all products provide the same level of protection, and some don’t live up to the promises on their packaging.

That’s according to an annual report from our colleagues at Consumer Reports, who tested 65 water-resistant lotions, sprays, and sticks with SPF of 30 or higher.

In all, 28 of the sunscreen products tested failed to meet the SPF claim printed on their label.

“Yet again, our sunscreen testing has shown that consumers may not be getting the protection they’re paying for,” Trisha Calvo, Deputy Editor of Health and Food for Consumer Reports, said in a statement. “Just because a sunscreen claims to offer a certain level of protection doesn’t mean it does. We create and release these ratings to ensure that consumers are informed about what sunscreens work best so they can protect themselves and their families from damaging sun exposure.”

In addition to determining that 43% of sunscreens tested failed to meet their stated SPF standards, CR’s report looked at why these sunscreens fall short and what types of sunscreens were more likely to protect consumers.

As we prepare to enjoy our time in the sun, here are the five things we learned about sunscreen from CR.

1. Trouble With Mineral-based Sunscreens: Over the years, CR has tested 104 different sunscreen products. Through those tests the organization has determined that mineral products – often called “natural” and containing titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both as active ingredients — don’t work well.

When CR looked at four years of its sunscreen testing data, it found that 74% of the 19 mineral sunscreens tested did not meet their SPF claim.

Additionally, only 20% of mineral sunscreens that claimed to have an SPF of 40-110 tested above 30 SPF.

2. Chemical-based Sunscreens More Accurate: Over four years, CR has tested 85 chemical sunscreens. Of those products, 42% failed to meet their SPF claims.

Nearly 80% of the chemical sunscreens that claimed to have an SPF of 40-110 tested above a 30 SPF.

3. Falling Below The Label: When CR separated the sunscreens into categories based SPF claims, they found a significant percentage tested below their label.

Nearly 70% of sunscreens labeled SPF 40-110 tested SPF 30 or higher, while only 65% of sunscreens that claimed SPF 30-39 met the mark.

4. Don’t Rely On Marketing: While CR did not test UVO, a drink that claims to provide sun protection for three to five hours after consumption — the publication found no independent research that backed up the claims.

5. Use More Than Sunscreen: While sunscreen can be a great protectant from the sun, CR and the Food & Drug Administration urge consumers seek out additional means, like hats and protective clothing.

“To stay safe in the sun, we encourage consumers to use one of the 17 sunscreens that performed well in our tests,” Calvo said. “If a consumer can’t find one of our recommended sunscreens, their best bet is to use a chemical sunscreen with a claimed SPF of 40 or higher, as it increases the likelihood that it will deliver at least the minimum protection recommended by dermatologists.”

Get the Best Sun Protection [Consumer Reports]

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