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The 'SPF' Rating On Your Sun Block May Not Be Accurate, Warns Consumer Reports

(CBS) -- The bottle may say SPF 50, but is it really?

New research from Consumer Reports reveals that many sunscreens may not be providing the protection they promise on the bottle. CBS 2's Dorothy Tucker reports.

The summer sun signals a need to spray or slather on the sunscreen.

But are you getting what you pay for?

"We're concerned that some sunscreens may not provide the protection that they are promising on their label," says Trisha Calvo, deputy editor of health and food for Consumer Reports.

In their lab, Consumer Reports used volunteers to test 65 sunscreens with SPF claims of 30 or higher. Twenty-eight fell short.

What difference does that make?

"You run the risk that it may not protect you the way that ou expect it to," Calvo says.

The worst two: Banana Boat kids lotion, SPF 50, and CVS kids sun lotion, SPF 50. Both tested at just SPF 8.  SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.

"It's concerning because I'm putting it on my children thinking that I'm going to get the best sunscreen possible, affordable, and then it's not what it says it is," says mom Sandra Nawrot.

But, among the lotions, Consumer Reports' top choice, La Roche-Posay, met its SPF of 60.

CBS 2 put the best and worst in a box and let moms choose before revealing the results.

Neutrogena, one of the top sprays, met its claim of 70 SPF.

"I choose this one," mom Khalilah Yusuf said, selecting Banana Boat Sport.

"It claims that it's 100 SPF but it's tested 36 SPF. So, that's lower than what I expect. Way lower. So, they're misleading," she says.

The expectation you're being protected from the sun when you're not can be dangerous.

"Repeated sun exposure like that will result in sun spots and fine lines and wrinkles, and in more severe cases, skin cancer," says Dr. Sheetal Mehta, a dermatologist at Rush University Medical Center.

"I would only put it on once for the afternoon," says Brad Belcher about his use of sunscreens.

Shavonte Williams doesn't use it at all. She says she is fine without it.

"We recommend sunscreen on all types of skin, whether it's fair skin, medium skin, or darker-skinned individuals," says Dr. Mehta.

CBS 2 reached out the companies with the lowest sunscreen ratings. Both defend their products, calling them safe and effective.

CVS said this: "CVS Pharmacy's store brands are designed to maximize quality and assure the products we offer are safe, work as intended, comply with regulations and satisfy customers.

Based on information provided by Consumer Reports, we cannot validate that the publication complied with the industry standard, FDA-approved methodology for testing sunscreen products."

Banana Boat (Edgewell): "We are dedicated to helping people make informed choices about appropriate sun protection because it is essential for optimal health, and we want people to know they can confidently use Banana Boat products.

The batches of Banana Boat products tested by Consumer Reports met our rigorous specifications that adhere to FDA-mandated testing requirements. We are proud of the performance and quality of our sun care products and stand behind their level of protection against UVA/UVB rays.

All of our sun care products undergo rigorous testing for SPF, broad spectrum and water resistance; are appropriately labeled for SPF, and meet our own specifications as well as relevant FDA regulations. In addition to our formal in-house quality review and expert verification of every product batch to ensure quality before distribution, we also have qualified independent laboratories conduct claims and safety tests for all our product formulas to ensure they meet all FDA requirements.

People can feel confident using our products for safe and effective sun protection, when applied as directed by the product labels."

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