According to a new study by Consumer Reports over 40 percent of the 60 sunscreens tested by experts fall short of their SPF numbers printed on the product’s label. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all sunscreens to meet labeled levels. Despite this requirement, “fully half came in below the SPF number on the label, and a third registered below an SPF 40,” reports Fortune.
Three of the sunscreens even fell far short of their claims, sporting an actual level of less than 15 despite claiming they had an SPF of 30 or higher. Two examples were Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free SPF 50 lotion and CVS Kids Sun Lotion SPF 50, which both tested at an SPF 8, according to CBS News. That leaves many consumers at risk for sunburn and potential long-term skin damage, although they think they are properly protected.
Mineral products, often called “natural” sunscreens, were especially poorly rated. These include products that contain only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both as active ingredients. Only 26 percent of the 19 mineral sunscreens tested met their SPF claims. Of the chemical sunscreens 58 percent of the 85 tested, met their claims.
Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports’ deputy editor of health and food said that mineral sunscreens, with ingredients such as avobenzone, were less likely to meet their SPF claims than chemical sunscreens. While the FDA requires sunscreen makers test their products, in most cases, the agency does not require them to submit their results.
The executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation, Tim Turnham, PhD, said that the disparity between claimed SPF protection and tested SPF is a “cause for real concern.”
Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, and senior vice-president of the Skin Cancer Foundation says, the report “raises very important points about the importance of SPF as well as the importance of broad-spectrum UVA protection as a means to reduce the risk of skin cancer and to minimize premature skin aging.” Dr. Hale also advised buying sunscreens with SPFs higher than 30 to compensate both for products that fall short of their claims as well as the tendency to under-apply sunscreens.
Consumer Reports listed 17 “recommended” sunscreens and announced their July magazine will contain a broad sunscreen report.