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June 27, 2014 at 11:01 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Studies Cast Doubt on Some Sunscreen Claims: Can You Trust YOUR Sunscreen's SPF Label?

By Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, MD More Blogs by This Author

Summer is finally here!  After this long winter, I’ve been trying to maximize my time outside in the nice weather.  But with the summer sun, also comes increased risk of skin cancer.  I used to be one of those people who mentally mocked people who used sunscreen all the time, but after removing numerous skin cancers (and countless pre-cancerous lesions) I’ve seen the light.

The evidence is staggeringly clear that the rates of skin cancer (even in young people) is on the rise and protecting your skin from sun exposure is the best thing you can do to prevent it.

I guess I’m a pretty trusting guy, but when a sun screen says its UVA and UVB SPF protection is a specific number, then I tend to believe them.  After all, this is official labeling and the FDA sets the regulations for SPF claims.  But after reading a recent Consumer Reports article, I’m much more skeptical.

Here is a quote from the results of their article:

“We found a wide variability of effectiveness against UVA rays. Seven sunscreens and one moisturizer tested just fair for UVA protection and two sunscreens tested Poor. In our tests, 18 out of 20 sunscreens did not provide the SPF (UVB) protection promised on their labels. (We found differences between the claimed SPF and the actual SPF in our tests last year as well.) That doesn't mean the sunscreens aren't protective, but you may not be getting the protection you think you are. One of the tested sunscreens rated just Fair against UVB rays and another received a Poor rating. We can't say why our test results differ from the manufacturers' claims, but they show that SPF isn't always carved in stone.”

I find these results ridiculous!  Do these companies actually test their products, or do they just make up their SPF numbers?

  • Not Recommend: Beyond Coastal Natural - claimed SPF 30, tested at SPF 15
  • Not Recommended: Banana Boat Kids - claimed SPF 50, tested at SPF 15
  • Recommend Spray On: Bullfrog Water Armor Sport Instacool SPF 50+
  • Recommended Spray On: Well at Wallgreens Sport SPF 50
  • Recommended Spray On: Banana Boat Ultra Defense Max Skin Protect SPF 110
  • Recommended Lotion: Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50
  • Recommended Lotion: Neutrogena Ultimate Sport Ultimate Sport SPF 70+
  • Best Buy: Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50
  • Best Buy: Target's Spray Up & Up Sport SPF 50

By writing about this, I don’t want to discourage people from using sun screens, but I do hope people will do a little research on what they are buying.

I also want to reiterate that sunscreen is not the only protection from the sun, a good old fashion sun hat, sun proof cloths and hanging out in the shade are also important tools for sun protection.

When you use your sunscreen apply it on heavy and reapply often.

Stay Healthy,

Dr. Jeff M.D.


Consumer Reports: Sunscreen Buying Guide

CBS: Consumer Reports Tests Sunscreens, 18 of 20 Below SPF Promise

More from Health Coach Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, MD Others Are Reading


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