Target, Walmart sunscreens top Consumer Reports ratings
Testing indicates SPF number can't be relied on
SAN ANTONIO – Just in time for beach season, Consumer Reports tested sunscreens and found that not only are SPF labels unreliable, but high prices don't mean higher protection from the suns harmful rays.
The SPF is supposed to tell you the level of protection you get from UVB rays.
"Most of the sunscreens we tested provided less protection that the SPF listed on the container," said Sue Booth of Consumer Reports.
The rules of sunscreen labeling have changed. Now, you see the words, "broad spectrum" on many products, and that's what you should look for.
"Broad spectrum means sunscreens are supposed to protect not just against UVB rays, but UVA rays as well," Booth said.
Both types of rays can cause skin cancer. While UVB rays lead to sunburn, UVA rays can wrinkle and age the skin.
Lab tests revealed some products offer better protection than others for both types of rays. And, higher price tags did not mean better protection.
Some less-expensive store brand products earned top marks.
The top-rated sunscreen is a spray from Target, Up and Up Sport broad spectrum SPF 50.
"Spray sunscreens are convenient, but the risks of inhaling them are still being studied," Booth said. "We don't recommend spraying children. And, don't spray directly on your face."
If you prefer a lotion, Consumer Reports named one from Walmart a best buy. It's Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50.
Consumer Reports used to recommend an SPF of 30 as adequate. But considering the findings in the tests, now recommends an SPF of at least 40.
You won't find "waterproof" or "sweatproof" on labels any more either. Now, you should look for water-resistant.
Sunscreen should be applied about 30 minutes before exposure and should be used liberally. Sprays are also flammable, so they should be allowed to dry before going near an open flame.
Sunscreen should not be stored in a hot car because the product may degrade faster. And, when a sunscreen is two years old, it's time to replace it.
Copyright 2013 by Consumer Reports. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.