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Consumer Reports: Top sunscreens in 2019

Posted at 7:35 AM, May 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-10 10:36:40-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - Dermatologists always say that the best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use. But as Consumer Reports’ tests show, some are much better at protecting your skin than others.

As part of Consumer Reports testing, sunscreen is applied to subjects’ backs and then they soak in a tub for 40 or 80 minutes, depending on the product’s water-resistance claim. The area is then exposed to simulated sunlight. The next day, trained experts examine the area for redness.

Two of CR’s top best buy sunscreens are Equate Walmart Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 and Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50-plus. Recently, the FDA asked sunscreen manufacturers to provide additional safety information on 12 common sunscreen chemical active ingredients, including oxybenzone, which is potentially the most concerning.

“The concern with oxybenzone, is that there is evidence that it is absorbed through the skin," says Consumer Reports Health Editor, Trisha Calvo. "Animal studies suggest that it may interfere with the function of hormones, including estrogen. But there hasn't been enough research yet to determine if it's harmful to people.”

Still, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that parents may want to consider using an oxybenzone-free sunscreen on their children. If you’re looking for a sunscreen containing no chemicals, you may be thinking of trying a mineral or natural sunscreen. But, shop carefully.

“In our sunscreen tests in recent years, we haven’t found a mineral sunscreen that provides both top-notch protection and meets its labeled SPF." says Consumer Reports Testing Engineer, Sue Booth.

Although California Kids Sensitive Lotion SPF 30-Plus and Badger Active Natural Mineral Cream SPF 30 - Unscented, were not at the top of CR's ratings, they were the highest scoring mineral sunscreens and will provide some protection.

Consumer Reports also had its trained sensory panelists evaluate sunscreens for scent and feel. This sensory testing isn’t factored into the overall score, but the panelists descriptions of the scent and feel of every sunscreen can be found next to CR’s ratings to help you pick the best sunscreen for you.