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Consumer Reports rates sunscreens; drugstore brand a best buy

May 24, 2012|By Mary MacVean
  • Stocking up on sunscreen? A Walgreens-brand spray gets "best buy" props from Consumer Reports.
Stocking up on sunscreen? A Walgreens-brand spray gets "best buy"… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

With the unofficial start of summer just days away, it’s time to stock up on sunscreen. Does it matter which one you buy? Consumer Reports tested some popular brands, and found that it does, but the best choices are not necessarily the most expensive.

Of the 18 popular products Consumer Reports tested, none rated excellent in all four categories: UVA and UVB protection, UVB protection after being in the water, and staining fabrics. All Terrain Aqua Sport lotion rated best, scoring 88 of 100 possible points. Thirteen products scored 70 or higher.

Consumer Reports gave “best buy” kudos to No-Ad with Aloe & Vitamin E SPF 45 and Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has postponed until December implementation of its new rules that aim to simplify labels on sunscreen products; the rules include requiring products claiming protection against both UVB and UVA rays – “broad-spectrum protection” – to pass a “critical wave” test, which Consumer Reports included in its assessments.

It put the products through their paces on people before and after they went into fresh water and on clear plastic plates.

Seven of the sunscreens passed the “critical wave” test and were rated “very good” against UVA rays and excellent against UVB rays. Two products -- Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunblock Sport SPF 45 and Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50+ -- failed the critical wavelength test, Consumer Reports said.

The SPF value refers to the product’s protection against UVB radiation – what causes sunburn. UVA radiation causes the skin to age and contributes to skin cancer, said Karen Rauen, Consumer Report’s director of Health and Consumer Science Operation.

The No-Ad costs 59 cents an ounce; at the other end was the non-water-resistant La Roche-Posey Anthelios 40 with Mexoryl SX SPF 40, at $20.59 an ounce, Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports recommends people use a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30; above that, it says, there’s little additional protection.

The FDA delayed compliance with the new measures to avert a sunscreen shortage this summer, said Lydia Velazquez of the agency’s Division of Nonprescription Regulation Development.

The new labeling will tell consumers on the back of the product that sunscreens labeled as both “broad spectrum” and with an SPF of 15 or higher can protect against sunburn and reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging.

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