WASHINGTON — How effective are the UVA and SPF ratings on sunscreens?
The answer might surprise you, according to the annual rankings of the best sunscreens by Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization that puts more than 5,000 products through a series of tests every year.
Consumer Reports finds there are surprises when it comes to the levels of protection advertised and reality. It’s a pattern the organization has seen in previous tests, as well.
The report rates 73 sunscreen products ranging from lotions to sticks and sprays. Dermatologists recommend using products with SPF of 30 or higher.
The ratings are based on a number of factors: The UVA protection, UVB (SPF) protection and variation from SPF. The variation from SPF rating is a measure of how closely a sunscreen’s tested UVB (SPF) protection matched the SPF advertised on the label.
If a sunscreen contained 85 percent or above the labeled SPF it earned an excellent rating, between 70 and 84 percent, a very good rating, between 60 and 69 percent, a good rating, 50 to 59 percent, a fair rating and below 50 percent, a poor rating.
Twenty four sunscreens were found to have less than half their labeled SPF number, meaning consumers aren’t getting the degree of protection they expect.
Lowest performing sunscreens
The lowest performing lotion, according to Consumer Reports, was Babyganics mineral-based lotion SPF 50+. It earned a fair rating for UVA protection and a poor rating for both its UVB protection and its variation from the SPF advertised on the label. Its overall rating was 22 on a scale of 100.
The lowest performing spray was the UV Aero Continuous Spray SPF 45 by EltaMD. It was rated poor for its UVA protection, good for its UVB (SPF) protection and poor for its variation from the SPF advertised on the label. Its overall score was 27.
Highest performing sunscreens
Scooping the top spot, with a score of 100, was La-Roche Posay’s Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk achieving a rating of excellent from Consumer Reports across the board. It costs $36.
One point below at 99 was Walmart’s Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50. It is priced at $5.
The highest performing spray, with an overall score of 100, was Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+. It achieved an excellent rating in all tests. It costs $6.
The report also noted that some claims on sunscreen bottles are not regulated by the FDA. Terms that are not include: “Sport” — “dermatologist recommended” — “natural” and “mineral.”
To access the sunscreen report consumers need to sign up for a basic free membership.
Here are the sunscreens Consumer Reports recommends and their ratings:
- La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk – 100
- Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50 sunscreen – 99
- BullFrog Land Sport Quik Gel SPF 50 – 95
- Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 50 Lotion sunscreen – 95
- Coppertone WaterBabies SPF 50 Lotion sunscreen – 94
- Equate (Walmart)Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 – 92
- AveenoProtect + Hydrate Lotion SPF 30 – 82
- Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+ – 100
- Banana Boat SunComfort Clear UltraMist Spray SPF 50+ sunscreen – 96
- CVS HealthBeach Guard Clear Spray SPF 70 – 90
- Equate (Walmart) Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 sunscreen – 83
- Equate (Walmart) Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30 sunscreen – 82
- Up & Up (Target)Kids Sunscreen Stick SPF 55 – 84