YONKERS, NY – Thirty-one percent of Americans polled by the Consumer Reports National Research Center said they never wear sunscreen.
But consumers aren’t oblivious to the sun’s risks: 22 percent of those polled said they’d been examined by a doctor for something they thought might be skin cancer.
The July issue of Consumer Reports rates 10 top-selling sunscreens to slather on, noting that there’s plenty of variation among the brands tested. Consumers should choose carefully. The report will be available online at www.ConsumerReportsHealth.org.
Forty-five percent of sunscreen users said they were “especially bothered” by getting sunscreen in their eyes, while 41 percent were bothered by sand sticking to their skin. Another issue was cost, which 40 percent of respondents cited as bothersome. About one third of respondents were bothered by stains and smells that wouldn’t wash out and not being able to wash sunscreen off their hands.
“Consumers should make sure they don’t forget sunscreen. There are plenty of options – creams, lotions, different scents – to suit every preference,” said Jamie Hirsh, associate editor, Consumer Reports. Forty-eight percent of sunscreen users who’d had a sunburn in the past two years said it happened during their first time out in the sun after months of little to no sun.
Other survey highlights include:
• While the likelihood that both men and women wearing sunscreen seems to increase the longer they plan to be in the sun, women are significantly more likely to be frequent sunscreen users. When planning to spend two to four hours in the sun, 48 percent of women versus 27 percent of men are likely to wear sunscreen.
• Twenty-seven percent of parents with kids under 12 years old say they never or only sometimes apply sunscreen on their kids when they’re outside for two to four hours. And 14 percent say they don’t even apply sunscreen on their kids when they’re outside for more than four hours.
• Only one-third of sunscreen users are brand-loyal when it comes to sunscreens. Thirty-three percent like a particular brand and tend to stick with it, while 62 percent say they use “whatever they have.”
• Twenty-two percent of respondents say they’ve been examined by a doctor for something they thought might be skin cancer. And 14 percent said they’d been told by a doctor they were at risk of skin cancer.
Best sunscreens, plus tips for sunscreen use
Consumer Reports assessed each sunscreen’s ability to protect against ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation. Many products now claim protection against both, though SPF accounts for ultraviolet B rays only. CR’s tests also measured the sunscreens’ protection after volunteers soaked in a tub for at least 40 minutes.
Consumer Reports found that most sunscreens protected well, identifying three Consumer Reports Best Buys: Walgreens Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50; Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 (lotion); and Target Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30, whose brand name has since changed to Up & Up. Consumer Reports notes that spray sunscreens can be tricky to apply if it’s windy.
Consumer Reports recommends the following tips for sunscreen use:
• Consumers should pay attention to the expiration dates on their sunscreens. If their sunscreen lists no expiration date, they should write the purchase date on the bottle with a marker. Discard a sunscreen that’s more than two years old.
• Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside to allow for absorption.
• Don’t rely on sunscreen alone to protect your skin. Wear tightly woven clothing and a broad-brimmed hat, limit sun time, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day.
• Don’t make purchases based on brand alone. Past tests have shown that different formulas or SPFs within the same brand may not rate the same.