Most sunscreens protected well
Consumer Reports tested the sunscreens at an outside lab, assessing the protection provided against UVA and UVB radiation. They were also tested on a panel of volunteers who soaked in a tub of water for 40 minutes.
The results showed that all the creams tested either met or exceeded the SPF marked on the bottle, except Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch SPF 70. However, since this performed within 10 percent of its claim, it was still deemed safe to use.
In addition, none of the sunscreens lost more than 10 percent of protection after immersion in water.
The watchdog recommended three brands in particular: Wall Green Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50, Copper Tone Waterbabies SPF 50 and Target Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30.
These results are comparatively positive when held against the examination carried out by Which? on European brands. This report claimed an alarming variation in the protection offered by popular brands such as Tesco, Malibu and Marks and Spencer, who all fell short of their SPF claim of 15.
The report in the UK raised alarm over EU SPF guidelines, which were seemingly inconsistent. However, UK trade body CTPA quickly refuted claims that the EU guidelines were open to interpretation and said it was deviations from the method and not the permitted tolerance within it that led to different results.
Not all positive
Nevertheless, the Consumer Reports test made recommendations on how sunscreen manufacturers could improve.
The magazine advised that consumers buy a very water resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. In accordance with proposals made by the Food and Drug Association, it agreed that an SPF beyond 50 is essentially a redundant claim.
Advising consumers that sunscreens may lose their potency after two years, it pointed out a lack of expiry dates on some brands of sunscreen.
Finally, it also stated that all of the products tested stained clothing, but only about half of the labels warned about staining.
Americans still reluctant to use sunscreen
More alarmingly, the report also found that most Americans know that sunscreen is important, but almost a third said that they never use it, even when they are in the sun for more than four hours.
This claim backs up an earlier report by Neutrogena, which found that 60 percent of Americans rarely or never use sunscreen because it is not part of their daily routine, or because they are concerned that it may prevent them from getting necessary levels of vitamin D.