Dermatologists say the best sunscreen is the one you’ll actually use. And while that may be true, that didn’t stop Consumer Reports from putting a variety of different sunscreens from different brands and price points to the test.
“We test sunscreens to see how well they protect against two types of UV rays—UVA, which causes aging and skin cancer, and UVB, which causes sunburn,” explained Consumer Reports Health Editor Trisha Clavo.
As part of Consumer Reports’ testing, sunscreen is applied to subjects’ backs. 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.
A top performer that is also a “Consumer Reports Best Buy” is Equate (Walmart) Ultra Lotion SPF 50 for $5.
Consumer Reports also enlisted panelists to test sunscreens for scent, feel, and appearance.
“In our tests, we found several sunscreens that absorb quickly into skin, and leave little to no residue on people of a variety of skin tones,” said Clavo.
Alba Botanica Hawaiian Coconut Clear Spray SPF 50 for $9.50 got kudos from the majority of panelists and also tested well in Consumer Reports’ overall ratings.
CONSUMER REPORTS: Best sunscreens of 2022
And after numerous recalls of some aerosol sunscreens because of contamination with the chemical benzene, Consumer Reports looked for benzene in all of the aerosol sunscreens it tested.
“The good news is that all the products we tested for benzene came back negative,” Calvo said.
One other important note: Consumer Reports recommends parents and caregivers choose lotion sunscreens for kids and only use sprays as a last resort. It’s because kids may inhale the spray which could cause lung irritation.