Consumer Reports rates top sunscreens for 2012


(CBS News) Summer beach weather is in full swing now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, which also means it's time to carry that bottle of sunscreen with you to protect against sunburn and skin cancer.

Consumer Reports has issued its 2012 Sunscreen Buying Guide which ranks the "Best Buys" in terms of cost and protection against skin-damaging ultraviolet rays.

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According to the magazine, choosing the wrong sunscreen could leave you and your kids feeling burned. Ultraviolet rays can promote skin cancer in two different ways. It can damage the DNA in skin cells and weakening the body's natural defenses against cancer cells. UVB radiation causes sunburn while UVA rays penetrate deeper, tanning and aging skin - and both have been tied to skin cancer risk.

The advocacy magazine put 18 of the top-selling sunscreens to the test by enlisting volunteers to test protection before and after submerging themselves in water for up to 80 minutes. Researchers also conducted a new "critical wavelength test," that the FDA is now requiring sunscreens to undergo if they claim to be "broad spectrum" and protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Ratings also considered whether sunscreens stained clothing, and how much they cost.

Products ranged from SPF 30 to SPF 75+ and varied in price from a low of $.59 an ounce to a high of $20.59 per ounce. What did the researchers find?

Two products flunked the broad spectrum critical wavelength test despite claiming otherwise on the bottles: Alba Botanical natural very emollient sunblock sport, SPF 45 and Banana Boat Kids tear-free, sting-free, SPF 50+.

New FDA rules on sunscreen labeling that were set to take place in June would require companies to put on a label whether a sunscreen is "broad-spectrum" and protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Those rules were delayed until December to give companies more time to comply, HealthPopreported.

Seven products were rated as "very good" against UVA and "excellent" against UVB, even after being dunked in water for 80 minutes, earning them the magazine's "recommended" rating. These products included All Terrain Aqua Sport lotion, SPF 30 ($4 per ounce), Banana Boat clear ultra-mist sports performance active dry protect spray, SPF 30 ($1.63 per ounce), Coppertone sport high performance ultra sweat-proof spray, SPF 30 ($1.67 per ounce), Coppertone oil-free foaming spray, SPF 75+ ($1.67 per ounce), and Eco all natural sunscreen body lotion, SPF 30 ($4.72 per ounce).

Two products were rated as "Best Buys" by Consumer Reports: No-Ad lotion with aloe & vitamin E SPF 45 had a high overall score and at only $.59 per ounce, and Walgreens continuous spray sport SPF 50, coming in at $1.30 per ounce.

No one type of sunscreen protected the best and "price had nothing to do with performance" as La Roche-Posey's $20.59 per ounce Anthelios 40 with Mexoryl sunscreen scored worse than No-Ad lotion's $.59 per ounce product.

Consumer Reports says to stay safe in the sun, people should:

  • Wear a hat and protective clothing
  • Check sunscreen ingredients: Oxybenzone may interfere with hormones and nanoscale zinc and titanium oxides have been linked to potential reproductive and developmental effects. The group also recommends that pregnant women may want to avoid products with retinyl palmitate, which has been tied to birth defects.
  • Spray carefully: Avoid using sprays on kids or spray sunscreen into your hands before applying it to a face. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of inhaling spray sunscreens.
  • Use two to three tablespoons of lotion on most of your body, or spray as much as can be rubbed in then repeat. Reapply every two hours after swimming or sweating.
  • Use a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Above 30, you get little extra protection.