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Expensive Sunscreens Might Not Be Worth the Extra Money

By , SparkPeople Blogger
We've blogged in the past about the importance of wearing sunscreen. I've even admitted that I'm good at putting it on my kids, but don't always take the time to protect myself. That's actually changing, especially as I notice I easily get brown spots on my face from too much sun that don't go away. Yuck.

When it comes to choosing a sunscreen for myself, I'm never quite sure which product to buy. Do I go with a trusted name-brand, or are the generic products just as good? Which is better: the lotion or spray-on variety? A new study ranks the best products on the market, and the findings might surprise you.

The study, conducted by Consumer Reports magazine, tested 22 sprays and lotions to measure their effectiveness at blocking UVA and UVB radiation. UVA damage leads to premature aging of the skin. UVB is primarily responsible for sunburns. Target's Up & Up Sport Continuous SPF 30 won top honors for both effectiveness and cost. Three other brands were also highly rated based on their protection and cost:

• Banana Boat Sport Performance SPF 30
• Coppertone Sport Ultra Sweatproof SPF 30
• CVS Fast Cover Sport SPF 30

Although a few of the products tested did not perform well (and coincidentally, some were the most expensive), most received high ratings for effectiveness. At that point, buyers often choose products based on feel and smell. Research has shown that if someone doesn't like the smell or texture, the turnoff makes them less likely to wear any sunscreen at all. Take your time choosing a product that works well, but that you also like.

"In a change from previous years, the new report warns that ingredients contained in many of the sunscreens have been associated with adverse health effects in animals. For example, seven of the 22 sunscreens tested by the magazine contain retinyl palmitate, an antioxidant that animal studies have linked to an increased risk of skin cancers. The ingredient also readily converts to retinoids, which are found in some acne medications and which studies have linked with the risk of birth defects."

This information shouldn't scare people off from wearing sunscreen. The research is ongoing, but it's important to be an informed consumer. Experts recommend staying out of the sun during peak times if possible, but when it's not, wearing sunscreen is still your best option.

What do you think?

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I was told by my Dr that I have to wear SPF 60 on my face because Melasma (discolouration) She told me to pick up a certain kind that cost me $60. I haven't broke out with it, but man, it's greasy! I have to use oil blotting papers before I put my make up on, otherwise, my skin looks like a shiny mirror ball! I will be looking for a different brand once I need more, and hopefully, a cheaper brand at that! Report
I also like to use EWG (
) to help pick out my sunscreens. I am not sure of the status of any studies that are done to determine the safety of sun screens in general. However, I am very pale and also have skin that is easily irritated and, in my experience, using products with fewer chemicals raises the chance that I can tolerate them without any adverse effects. I also *hate* sun screen that has strong smells or is oily feeling on my skin so that is a big part of what I purchase as well. Report
I always use sunscreen..but never buy the expensive brands. Report
I'm also allergic to sunscreen. I found that Nivea sunscreen worked for me for a while...but they have changed their formula so now I break out. I'm trying a natural sunscreen I got from a Naturopathy Shop and we will see how it goes. I also make sure I use a moisturiser that has sunscreen in it - I've found that Dove hasn't made me break out in a rash. And I break out in a rash with almost everything! Report
my problem is i'm allergic to most lotions and actually burn worse with sunscreen on so i just try to stay out of the sun or i wear clothes that cover up the places that burn easily. Report
My current favorite is a sunscreen that I bought from Dollar Tree! SPF 30. Report
My husband usually buys fairly expensive suntan lotions, so it is good to know that we don't really need the pricey ones. I use the Avon one for my face, and it works well. We also have the sport one, and some spray ones. I like the creamy ones, over the oily ones. Report
I wonder if children and adults are more Vitamin D deficient because we all have chosen to sit inside on sunny days. I'm glad someone has decided to inform the public about the use of sunscreen. It seems so simple, but it is something people should know about. I find it so hard to pick out sunscreen, this helped a lot. Report
Thank you for emphasising the need for sunscreening. Here in Australia, skin cancer is one of the highest in the world, so anything that helps is a Godsend. Report
Interesting. Also of note, doctors are starting to see very low levels of Vitamin D in children, as well as in adults, and are looking to see if there is a link to wearing sunscreen which blocks it from being absorbed. Vitamin D is essential to good health so this aspect is worth monitoring as well. Report
I also use EWG to help me decide on sunscreens. I usually buy organic ones and use them only on my face, neck and chest. I don't put sunscreen on my arms or legs. The organic suscreens are more expensive but they last a long time. That way you can protect your looks and the areas most exposed to sun, but also get a little sun as dr's are now recommending, since we're all vitamin D deficient!!! So I try to take all the advice and split it down the middle and hope for the best LOL I am not super light skinned (more olive) and I don't work outside Report
I use No Ad Spf as high as is available and have not had a problem My youngest boy is red headed and freckled and with this stuff applied as directed, ha hasn't burnt while using it! Report
My kids wear rash guards (aka swim shirts) to protect the neck, back, and shoulders. Covering the skin is really the easiest option for my fair-skinned children since they balk at having to stand still long enough for sunscreen application. A good waterproof sunscreen with an SPF 30+ covers everything else exposed. Oh, and it's always applied before we even leave the house so they aren't slowed down once we reach our destination! Report
Oh, good golly! Now sunscreen can cause skin cancer? This is ridiculous. How is the average consumer supposed to keep up with this type of news??!! Report
Maybe the cheap ones do a good job at blocking the sun, but I'm willing to spend the extra money to buy sunscreen that does not have ingredients that mimic estrogen in them (some of the same types of effects BPA has that has led to the movement against it - think SIGG bottles). As Tango said - visit the EWG website. California Baby's sunscreen was very different going on than I was used to, a bit harder to spread around, but absorbed it was surprisingly not greasy and didn't run into my eyes. I'm still not happy with all of the ingredients in it, but much more so than my old big-name brand that I used the whole time I was growing up. Report
I swear by Clinique City Block Sheer SPF 25 for my face. It's pricey, but it works and lasts all day no matter what I'm doing. For my body, I'm fine with the cheaper stuff, my problem is remembering to apply it! Report
I love LaRoche Posay facial sunblock! I It may seem expensive at $29.50 (for the Anthelios Ultra light sunscreen fluid) but it really lasts a long time. I wear it almost everyday too. I do a lot of reading on facial sunblocks and I notice that
this sunscreen (and their whole sun protection line) is the
winner in New Beauty Winter/Spring 2011: Best Overall Sunscreen line and also the winner in Health 2010 Healthy Beauty Awards: Sunscreen category Report
I buy NO-AD at Walmart which works great and is never advertised. Thus the name. Report
I'm just glad that people are starting to do studies that show that some sunscreens have cancer causing ingredients in them. The scare tactic that the sunscreen companies are using to keep people buying their products "don't EVER get any sun or you'll get cancer", biggest LIE ever, is so ridiculous when they're putting cancer causing ingredients in their product!!!! Best advice I can give anyone, everything in moderation. Get the recommended amount of UV exposure for your skin type daily so your body can produce the vitamin D it needs to help PREVENT cancer but then make sure you use sunscreen to help prevent over exposure. The sun and getting a moderate tan are not the enemy that eveyone tries to make them out to be. Everything in moderation! =) Report
Check out this website:
for the Environmental Working Group's analysis of this year's sunscreens. They rate them not only on effectiveness, but also on toxicity . .. it's mindblowing what some of these "lotions" have in them. Really, take a look. Report
For me the big thing is my face since I have rosacea and I wear a generic version that has SPF 45 and I also have a lip balm from Avon with SPF 30
Lots of sunscreens make me tear up -- even when others are wearing it and not me. I just have watery eyes that are uncomfortable based on the ingredients of some sunscreens. So while I'd like to go for any ol' brand and know that it's working fine to protect me, I have to let my body guide me to the ones that don't wreak havoc with my tear ducts. Usually, Water Babies works best for me---but I can only control what I'm applying to my skin and not the friends around me. Report
I'm one of those people that buys based on texture and scent. I don't like feeling greasy and I hate breaking out on my face because of sunscreen. I also have asthma and some of the scents can really bother me. I buy Aveeno. It's more expensive but worth it to me. They have one that is SPF 100 (I'm very pale) and it's made specifically for your face. It works great and I've never had a breakout. Report
Lol, I think "effectiveness" is in the skin of the wearer. I'm with Amber512; it's all about what DOESN'T give me a rash (I have eczema). I'm willing to spend a bit more for that. All of the brands listed above, in addition to some of the most expensive ones have made me break out. I use the Aveeno Baby or California Baby line, which I guess is mid-range as far as price. Report
I like Water Babies. I used it on my children when they were little and I have found when I use it and apply it as recommended I have never burned. Report
I'm one of those people that won't use sunscreen because I can't stand the slick, greasy feeling. I really like the Up & Up Sport Spray for my kids though. When I put it on them, I make sure I'm standing upwind though. Report
This is great information! Never know if what I'm doing is actually helping! Now I can spend that large amount of money on something worthwhile! Report
If I could just find one that didn't make me break out into a full body rash, I'd be happy! Report
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