Tests reveal which sunscreens protect your skin best

Consumer Reports tests 12 sunscreens from popular brands

Published On: May 24 2013 07:03:37 PM CDT   Updated On: May 24 2013 09:38:23 PM CDT
Sunscreen tests
HOUSTON -

Is your sunscreen really giving you the protection it promises? If you think the most expensive brands work best, think again.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, sunbathers will hit the beach and so will the kids.

Before you slather on that lotion, Consumer Reports has tested 12 sunscreens from popular brands. Is that SPF on the bottle actually what you're getting?

"You wanna buy the very best for your kids," said one mom on the beach. "The highest number."

Believe it or not, researchers found some of the least-expensive sunscreens scored the best, including Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic and even these generic store brands, from Walmart, Walgreens and Target, all delivering the protection their labels promise and all recommended by the magazine.

"We found six that are really good at protecting against UVA and UVB rays, and they're at a very affordable price," said Nicole Sarrubo of Consumer Reports magazine.

Those inexpensive sunscreens beat out products from California Baby, NO-AD, Neutrogena and Kiss My Face. In fact, the sunscreens that scored the lowest, Badger and All Terrain, were some of the most expensive.

"We found in our tests this year that you can't always rely on the SPF number," said Sarrubo. "A couple of the sunscreens didn't meet their SPF claims."

The companies say their SPF's are accurate, tested by independent labs and meet or exceed FDA guidelines. Badger and All Terrain question Consumer Reports' findings, since they got top ratings in prior years.

What about those sunscreens with the ultra-high SPF's, like 80 or 100? Is that worth buying?

Some doctors say no, as they offer no extra protection at all.

"I tell my patients SPF over 50 is useless," said dermatologist Dr. Ellen Marmur. "Save your money, stick with the 30 to 50 plus."