Consumer Reports Sunscreen Ratings: Walgreens and No-Ad are Best Buys

May 18, 2012, 13:00 ET from Consumer Reports

New FDA Rules Help Clarify Sunscreen Labels for Consumers; Two Sunscreens Fail "Broad-Spectrum" Protection Test

YONKERS, N.Y., May 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Just in time for Memorial Day and the start of summer activities, Consumer Reports rated 18 popular sunscreens. CR Best Buys include No-Ad with Aloe & Vitamin E SPF 45 and Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50. The report, along with details about new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling rules, are available online at

Among the new FDA labeling rules is that sunscreens claiming broad-spectrum protection, against both UVB and UVA rays, must pass the new "critical wavelength" test. Consumer Reports tested sunscreens on people—before and after immersion in freshwater—and on clear plastic plates to check for critical wavelength. Seven sunscreens rated very good against UVA rays, rated excellent against UVB rays even after water immersion for 80 minutes, and met the FDA's broad-spectrum labeling requirement. However, two sunscreens, Alba Botanica Natural Very Emollient Sunblock Sport SPF 45 and Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free Sting-Free SPF 50+, failed the critical wavelength test.

"While the SPF value indicates a sunscreen's protection from UVB radiation, which causes sunburn, the new FDA requirement means that sunscreens that claim broad-spectrum protection will have to prove that they also protect against UVA radiation, which causes aging of skin and contributes to skin cancer," said Karen Rauen, Ph.D., Director, Health and Consumer Science Operation, Consumer Reports.

In the Consumer Reports sunscreen tests, no one type protected best, and price had little to do with performance. CR Best Buy No-Ad costs just 59 cents per ounce, besting the non-water-resistant $20.59 per ounce La Roche-Posey Anthelios 40 with Mexoryl SX SPF 40. For more information on how the pricier products fared vs. the less expensive ones, view the complete CR sunscreen Ratings at

Sun protection

Consumers Reports recommends that people use sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and water resistant. However, sun intensity, geographic location, skin type, and other factors come into play, so SPF is simply a relative measure of protection. To stay safe in the sun, Consumer Reports also advises everyone to wear a hat and protective clothing. And keep in mind the following tips when using any sunscreen:

  • Check ingredients. Oxybenzone may interfere with hormones in the body, and nanoscale zinc and titanium oxides have been linked to potential reproductive and developmental effects. In skin, retinyl palmitate converts readily to retinoids, associated with a risk of birth defects in people using retinoid-containing acne medications. Pregnant women may want to avoid products with retinyl palmitate.
  • Spray carefully. The FDA has said it is exploring the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens. Until more safety information is available, consumers should avoid using sprays on children, and be sure to spray sunscreen onto their hands before they apply it to their faces.
  • Use enough.  A person should use 2 to 3 tablespoons of lotion on most of their body, or spray as much as can be rubbed in, then repeat. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating.
  • New labels. The FDA has mandated that all sunscreen manufacturers simplify their labels to make them easier for consumers to understand. Visit for a guide to the changes.

About Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports is the world's largest independent product-testing organization. Using its more than 50 labs, auto test center, and survey research center, the nonprofit rates thousands of products and services annually. Founded in 1936, Consumer Reports has over 8 million subscribers to its magazine, website and other publications. Its advocacy division, Consumers Union, works for health reform, food and product safety, financial reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

JUNE 2012

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SOURCE Consumer Reports