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Best Sunscreens: A Consumer Reports Ranking

Consumer Reports Selects Sunscreens It Says Are Best at Warding Off Wrinkles, Sunburn, and Skin Cancers

WebMD Health News

May 25, 2010 -- A major consumers’ group has rated the sunscreens it says work best at blocking harmful ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation that cause sunburns, wrinkles, and certain skin cancers.

Consumer Reports Health tested 12 products and found four it says protect a touch better than the others.

The top four are:

  • Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30, by Target. It is administered by spray and costs $0.88 per ounce.
  • Walgreens Sport Continuous SPF 50. Also a spray. Cost, $1.33 per ounce.
  • Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30. Spray. Cost, $1.60 per ounce.
  • Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF 50. Spray. Cost, $2 an ounce.

The products were tested in an outside laboratory, which checked product claims of how well their sun protection factor, or SPF, lasted on volunteers who soaked in water for 80 minutes. SPF rates the level of UVB protection.

The FDA has proposed a UVA star rating system for sunscreen labels of one to four stars to indicate the level of UVA protection. Currently there is no protection factor for UVA radiation on any labels.

The top four sunscreens provided “very good” UVA protection and “excellent” UVB protection, and met their SPF claims even after treated skin was in water for 80 minutes.

Each of the sunscreens had a moderately intense floral or citrus scent and left little residue on the skin.

Up & Up also received a “best buy” ranking from Consumer Reports Health. All four of the top brands cost a lot less than La Roche-Posay, which costs $18.82 per ounce.

Ranking below the top four were:

  • Coppertone Water Babies, with an SPF of 50 and a cost per ounce of $1.38. It is a lotion.
  • Coppertone UltraGuard Continuous rated a 70+ in SPF, costing $1.62 per ounce. Spray.
  • No-Ad with Aloe and Vitamin rated 45 on the SPF scale, costing $0.59 per ounce. Lotion.
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist with Helioplex had a 45 SPF, costing $1.90 per ounce. Spray.
  • Badger scored a PDF of 30, costing $4.83 per ounce. Lotion.
  • La Roche-Posay Anthelios 40 with Mexoryl SX, scored a 40 SPF, costing $18.82 per ounce. Cream.
  • Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition scores a SPF of 30, costing $3.50 per ounce. Pump spray.
  • Burt’s Bees Chemical-Free with Hemp Seed Oil got a 30 SPF, costing $4 per ounce. Lotion.

Consumer Reports Health says the active ingredient in Burt’s Bees, titanium dioxide, does not absorb the entire UVA spectrum as effectively as alternatives like avobenzone.

Avon, Consumer Reports Health says, makes no claim about protection from UVA rays, but the product doubles as a bug repellent.

Tips for Avoiding Sunburn

The report says sunbathers should buy sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which it says is enough for most people, and that sunscreens also should be water resistant.

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