With summer approaching, the watchdog, Consumer Reports decided to remind about the importance of a sunscreen.
Testing of 12 most widespread products for Summer 2013 showed that some sunscreens do not meet SPF specifications indicated on the containers. Therefore, not all sunscreens may be equal in terms of lasting power and protection.
As the matter of fact, the Foods and Drugs Administration had issued new guidelines for sunscreen labelling in June of 2011 aimed at eliminating uncertainty about the products' effectiveness, which were to be implemented by summer 2012.
However, last May, the FDA said it would postpone its enforcement of the labelling to provide sunscreen manufacturers with more time to implement the changes.
Now, when manufacturers must have adopted the requirements mandated by FDA, the new Consumer Reports piece shows that price of a sunscreen does not automatically means getting better and more effective protection, and the labelling is still inadequate.
"Some of the priciest sunscreens Consumer Reports tested offered less than their labelled SPF value," the magazine said in a press release.
As per the regulations, sunscreens' labelling must be divided into two categories: “broad spectrum”, the screens that are able to protect against both ultraviolet A and B radiation, and “not broad spectrum”, the ones that don't protect against both and must have a warning label on their bottle.
According to Skin Cancer Foundation, damaging UVA rays are responsible for wrinkling and ageing of the skin while UVB rays produce sunburn. The risk of skin cancers including melanoma is increased by both types of radiation.
Under the new rules, a product with an SPF below 15 will have a warning saying it only helps prevent sunburn and does not protect against skin ageing or skin cancer.
Also, sunscreens will have lost their sweat-proof and waterproof labels, and instead give a specific amount of time a user can expect to be protected while swimming.
All the sunscreens evaluated by the magazine are broad spectrum. Testers wore the sunscreens on an area of their backs, then UVB rays from a sun simulator were shined on five spots within the sunscreened area.
Additional testing for UVA involved seeing if the person tanned or turned red, and the products were also analysed through wavelength testing to measure how well UV rays were absorbed by the sunscreens. They were also tested to see if they stained clothing.
Target's Up & UP Sport SPF 50, came out on top with an overall score of 80. Six sunscreens, including the top scorer, were rated "very good overall" and were recommended by the magazine. They were:
Wal-Mart Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50.
Coppertone Water Babies.
Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50.
Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch SPF 30.
Coppertone Sport High Performance SPF 30.
At $0.63 an ounce, Wal-Mart's Equate earned the distinction of being a "Consumer Reports Best Buy."
As for the rest that weren't recommended, testers determined the least effective sunscreens were also among the priciest.
Both Badger Unscented SPF 34 lotion (which has been discontinued but still can be purchased online or at stores) and All Terrain AquaSport SPF 30 lotion were poor at guarding against UVB rays.
The Badger product costs $5.52 per ounce while All Terrain's offering is sold for $4.33 per ounce.
Other not recommended were California Baby SPF 30+, No-Ad with Avobenzone, Aloe and Vitamin E SPF 45, Neutrogena Wet Skin SPF 45+ and Kiss My Face with Hydresia SPF 40.
The magazine also shared tips for best ultraviolet protection, the most essential of which are using a broad spectrum sunscreens, applying them from 15 to 30 minutes before going outside, repeating it every two hours, wearing protective clothing and sunglasses.
When using spray on children, adults should spray the sunscreen on their hands first before applying it to kids' faces.
The storage conditions are crucial as well, since sunscreen can degrade or lose its properties completely under extreme temperatures, as in a hot car.
In addition, the Environmental Working Group, another watchdog, released its sunscreen guide last week. It contains hundreds of products, rating them on criteria such as efficacy against UVA and UVB radiation, presence of potentially hazardous chemicals, and products' stability in the sun.
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