Nearly a third of sunscreens tested by Consumer Reports fell short of the promised SPF protection, missing the mark by anywhere from 16% to 70%, according to their annual sunscreen report.

“Our findings are troubling because consumers may not be getting the amount of SPF protection they think they’re getting. On top of that, people often do not apply the right amount of sunscreen, fail to reapply it frequently enough, and don’t minimize their sun exposure, which could potentially put them at risk for overexposure to the sun’s rays.” said Trisha Calvo, Health and Food Deputy Content Editor for Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports measured SPF levels in the sunscreen samples by applying different products to panelists’ backs and having them soak in a large tub of water for the amount of time the products claimed to be water-resistant. When the panelists got out of the water, their sunscreen-coated skin was exposed to ultraviolet light.

Consumer Reports found that eight of the eleven sunscreens that didn’t meet their SPF claims had an SPF below 30. For example, Yes To Cucumbers Natural SPF 30 had an average SPF of just 14.

Sunscreens from Babyganics, Banana Boat, CVS, EltaMD, Hawaiian Tropic, Walgreens, and Vanicream also had SPF levels below their claims and less than SPF 30.

Although they didn’t meet their SPF claims, three sunscreens still had an SPF higher than 30 and are worth considering: Coppertone UltraGuard SPF 70+ tested as an SPF 59, Coppertone ClearlySheer for Beach & Pool SPF 50+ tested as an SPF 37, and Banana Boat Sport Performance with Powerstay Technology SPF 100 tested as an SPF 36.

Aloe Gator SPF 40+ landed at the bottom Consumer Reports’ sunscreen Ratings. While it rated excellent for UVB protection that would suppress burning, it earned poor marks for protection against UVA rays, which are constantly present during the day no matter the season and are potentially a more insidious threat to health than UVB rays because they penetrate deeply into the skin.

Consumer Reports did find 15 sunscreens to recommend.

  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk, SPF 60. The only one that earned a full 100% score, it’s also the priciest at $7.20 an ounce.
  • Vichy Capital Soleil 50 Lightweight Foaming Lotion, SPF 50, at $5.94 an ounce
  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50, at $1.31 an ounce
  • Equate Ultra Protection, SPF 50, at $.56 an ounce
  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50, at $.63 an ounce
  • Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish, SPF 30, at $1 an ounce
  • Aveeno Protect+Hydrate, SPF 30, at $3.33 an ounce
  • Up & Up Ultra Sheer, SPF 30, at $1.63 an ounce
  • Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray, SPF 50+, at $1.83 an ounce
  • L’Oreal Quick Dry Sheer Finish (spray) 50+, at $2.44 an ounce
  • Coppertone Sport High Performance AccuSpray, SPF 30, at $1.58 an ounce
  • Equate Sport Continuous Spray, SPF 30, at $1.33 an ounce
  • Coppertone UltraGuard, SPF 70+, at $1.38 an ounce
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection, SPF 70, at $1.62 an ounce
  • Caribbean Breeze Continuous Tropical Mist (spray), SPF 70, at $2.75 an ounce

The full study can be found in Consumer Reports

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