Consumer Reports Insights

Consumer Reports recommends four sunscreens

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sunscreens can help prevent sunburn, wrinkles and certain skin cancers.

Consumer Reports' recent tests of 12 products found four that protect a shade better than the rest: Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30 (Target), a CR Best Buy; Walgreens Sport Continuous SPF 50; Banana Boat Sport Performance Continuous SPF 30; and Aveeno Continuous Protection SPF 50.

These products provided very good ultraviolet A radiation protection and excellent ultraviolet B protection, and they met their SPF claim even after treated skin was soaked in water for 80 minutes.

UVA and UVB can both cause sunburn, skin damage and certain skin cancers. UVA can also cause wrinkles. There's no protection factor for UVA radiation on labels, although the Food and Drug Administration has proposed a system of one to four stars. SPF is a measure of UVB sun protection; put simply, if your skin normally turns red in 10 minutes, then using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 could lengthen that time to 300 minutes.

The active ingredient in Burt's Bees Chemical-Free Sunscreen with Hemp Seed Oil SPF 30, titanium dioxide, doesn't absorb the entire UVA spectrum as effectively as alternatives such as avobenzone. Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus IR3535 Expedition SPF 30 doesn't claim to protect against UVA rays, but it doubles as an insect repellent.

Tests performed by Consumer Reports' trained sensory panelists also evaluated how the sunscreens smelled, felt and absorbed into the skin.

Each of the top four sunscreens had a slight or moderately intense floral or citrus scent and left little residue on skin.

Bottom line: Buy sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (that's plenty for most people) that claims to be water-resistant. Also:

-- For full-body protection, adults should apply two to three tablespoons of lotion 15 to 30 minutes before going out. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Applying sprays can be tricky if it's windy.

-- Don't spray or rub sunscreen on clothes. Most of the products stained fabrics when they were applied directly and left for a day.

-- Wear tightly woven clothing and a hat, limit your sun time, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day.

Copyright 2010. Consumers Union of United States Inc.

For further guidance, go to ConsumerReportsHealth.org. More-detailed information -- including CR's ratings of prescription drugs, conditions, treatments, doctors, hospitals and healthy-living products -- is available to subscribers to that site.


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