Do sunscreens really live up to their SPF levels?

Do sunscreens really live up to their SPF levels?

Don’t judge a book by its cover - or a sunscreen bottle by its label.

After investigating and testing 65 sunscreen lotions, sprays and sticks with an SPF of at least 30, Consumer Reports found that 43% of sunscreens failed to meet the SPF claim on their labels, with some even dramatically missing the mark. Love using the Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free SPF 50 lotion for your children? You won’t anymore - that lotion tested at a shocking SPF 8.

Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports' deputy content editor of health and food, also pointed out that she thinks the chemicals in the product matter more than the SPF levels. “We found in our tests that if you choose a chemical sunscreen with an SPF of 40 or higher, you have a great chance of getting at least an SPF 30,” she explained. Overall, their investigation found that chemical sunscreens out-performed natural or mineral-based formulas, although some users reported mineral formulas as less irritating to their skin.

I am a firm believer in zinc and/or titanium dioxide because we know it’s effective - that’s why I incorporated it into Likewise Moisturizing Defense. Be sure to look for a high concentration (more than 7%) of zinc and titanium dioxide in your sunscreen!

If you’re curious, here are some of the top performing sunscreens to emerge from the investigation:

1. La Roche-Posay Anthellos 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk lotion

2. Pure Sun Defense SPF 50 lotion

3. Banana Boat SunComfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+

4. Aveeno Protect + Hydrate SPF 30

5. No-Ad Sport SPF 50 lotion

6. Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50

If you are concerned about using the right sunscreen products and want to speak to a provider, please visit our Dermatology specialists at one of our locations in Middle Tennessee: NashvilleFranklinColumbia, and Pulaski. 

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Dr Pena

About The Author

Dr. Pena is a Board-Certified Medical Dermatologist, Mohs skin cancer surgeon, and cosmetic dermatologist. Her mission is to educate the diverse patient populations she serves, and their communities, on the importance of skin care in decreasing the risk of skin cancer and minimizing the early signs of aging. She founded Skin Solutions Dermatology with numerous clinics in Nashville, Tennessee and surrounding Middle Tennessee.

Dr. Julia Pena, MD