Don't Get Burned: Consumer Reports Finds One-third of Tested Sunscreens Delivered Less Than Half of Labeled SPF Protection

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‘Natural’ sunscreens continue to underperform; CR Best Buys include lotions, sprays from Walmart, Trader Joe’s.

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For the fifth year in a row, many sunscreens failed to provide an adequate level of protection in our tests.

Sunscreen remains an absolute summertime necessity, but Americans who put too much faith in those familiar SPF numbers could be in for a surprise, according to Consumer Reports, the world’s largest independent, nonprofit consumer organization. In CR’s latest annual tests and ratings of 58 lotions, sprays, and sticks, 20 sunscreens tested at less than half their labeled SPF number.

“For the fifth year in a row, many sunscreens failed to provide an adequate level of protection in our tests,” said Trisha Calvo, Deputy Editor of Health and Food for Consumer Reports. “When consumers wear sunscreen, they should feel confident that they’re well-defended against sunburn, skin cancer, and skin aging, and that they’re actually getting the level of protection promised on the label. That’s where CR’s ratings come in.”

Consumer Reports tested sunscreens for UVA and UVB (SPF) protection, and how closely the sunscreen’s tested protection matched the SPF on the label. With some sunscreens, even though CR’s tested protection varied from the labeled SPF, the product still provides acceptable UVB protection. For example, Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 70 received a Very Good score for variation from SPF in our tests. That means it tested within 70 to 84 percent of the labeled SPF, coming in at an SPF over 49 in this case. That got the product an Excellent rating for UVB (SPF) protection and a recommended designation.

A total of 15 sunscreens received Excellent overall ratings and earned CR’s recommended designation. Among them are La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk lotion, Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+, Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50, Pure Sun Defense Disney Frozen Lotion SPF 50, and Banana Boat SunComfort Clear Ultramist Spray SPF 50+.

The full report, which features Four Steps to Sunscreen Success and the complete product ratings, is featured in the July 2017 issue of Consumer Reports and at

As in previous years, Consumer Reports could not find a mineral-based sunscreen — often referred to as “natural” sunscreens — that delivers the whole package: top-notch UVA and UVB protection. This was despite the fact that CR added more mineral sunscreens to its tests and included products with higher concentrations of the active ingredients than it did before. The “natural” sunscreen that ranked highest in CR’s ratings was California Kids #Supersensitive Lotion SPF 30+. It has an overall Good rating, a Very Good score for UVB protection, an Excellent variation from SPF rating, but it rated only Fair for UVA protection.

“If you can’t find one of the 15 CR-recommended products, we suggest using a sunscreen labeled with an SPF of at least 40 that contains chemical active ingredients such as avobenzone rather than ‘natural’ or mineral active ingredients such as zinc oxide,” Calvo said. “We’ve found that this offers the best chance of getting a sunscreen that delivers at least an SPF 30.”

About Consumer Reports
Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

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© 2017 Consumer Reports. The material above is intended for legitimate news entities only; it may not be used for advertising or promotional purposes. Consumer Reports® is an expert, independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to work side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. We accept no advertising and pay for all the products we test. We are not beholden to any commercial interest. Our income is derived from the sale of Consumer Reports® magazine,® and our other publications and information products, services, fees, and noncommercial contributions and grants. Our Ratings and reports are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose without our prior written permission. Consumer Reports will take all steps open to it to prevent unauthorized commercial use of its content and trademarks.

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James McQueen
Consumer Reports
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