The more sunscreen I use, the more I know I’m properly enjoying summertime.
The June 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine (subscription required) tested a variety of sunscreens, as they do nearly every year. This is actually important, as the labels on sunscreens tend to be misleading and make it look like they all do everything. For example, one important thing that CR tested for was protection against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB causes sunburn, but UVA damages and ages skin on a deeper level. Some major brands are notably weaker in protecting the UVA part of the spectrum. Water-resistance was also tested, as there really is no such thing as “water proof” or “sweat proof”.
Along the same lines, the FDA has been fighting with the sunscreen manufacturing lobby to get better labeling regarding these important sunscreen characteristics. Soon, sunscreens must meet higher requirements before claiming they block both UVA and UVB rays.
In general, going above SPF 30 doesn’t get you much extra protection, as it will likely wear off before it makes any difference. It’s better to reapply instead every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
2012 CR Best Buys
No-Ad Lotion (SPF 45, $0.59 per ounce)
Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport (SPF 50, $1.30 per ounce)
2011 CR Best Buy Left Out?
However, I remember doing my research on this topic before, and the top rated sunscreen used to be the Target Up & Up spray (SPF 30). Indeed, I found this old press release that showed that the Target spray was their CR Best Buy in 2011, with good protection against both UVA/UVB. However, it wasn’t tested at all in the 2012 issue. Why not?
I’ve tested a bunch of other sprays myself, including Neutrogena, Coppertone, and Banana Boat. Target was indeed the best value, with just-as-good performance and a great price compared to the big brands. $8.74 for 12 oz. (two 6 oz. bottles) = $0.73 per ounce, making it the cheapest spray by far. Neutrogena was my overall favorite as it was the least greasy, but it also cost more than twice as much. All of them tend to stain white clothing. (I use the Neutrogena lotion despite the higher cost for the face due to the non-greasiness.)
If you’re pregnant, you should check your sunscreen for retinyl palmitate, a common inactive ingredient in suncreens which has been linked to birth defects and thus should be avoided by pregnant women. The 2011 press release said the Target Up & Up had no retinyl palmitate, but I just checked my bottle and it actually was listed as an inactive ingredient. So heads up.
By Jonathan Ping | Frugal Living | 6/1/12, 2:10am