If there’s only one skincare rule that you follow, make it this: always, always wear sunscreen. We’re not just talking about an SPF-spiked tinted moisturizer either, for full protection, you need to layer one of the most effective, full-coverage sunscreens every single day (yep, even in winter.) Too much sun is the cause of everything from pigmentation to fine lines and even dryness.
But, apparently, it also matters which sunscreen you choose to use, and what ingredients feature in the formula. Consumer Reports recently tested more than 70 SPF formulas for its Annual Sunscreen Guide to shortlist the most effective sunscreens on the market when it comes to both UVA and UVB protection. For the uninitiated: UVA most often causes sunburn and skin cancer, while UVB rays can be the reason why your skin tans, ages, and also can contribute to skin cancer. Shockingly, the study found that some sunscreens were far less effective than they claimed to be.
Every sunscreen in the study was SPF 30 and was lathered onto six places on the backs of the panelists. Once applied, they soaked in a tub of water and had UVB light from a sun simulator directed to their backs. The following day all of their backs were measured and compared to see which areas were most red (seriously). To further test the effectiveness of each blend, the sunscreen was applied to plastic plates which were then given a UV light. The amount of UVA and UVB rays absorbed by the formulas were then measured and recorded
Of the sunscreens included in the comparison, 24 actually had less than half the SPF that its label claimed. Yikes. After both tests, only one of the 73 formulas tested received a perfect score: La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk ($36). The reason why comes down to a chemical active ingredient in the La Roche-Posay formula: avobenzone. Researchers found that this key ingredient was more effective at blocking harmful rays than other, mineral sunscreens that relied on ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide to block rays. None of the mineral sunscreens in the test performed competitively against the non-mineral formulas—and in fact not a single mineral sunscreen made Consumer Reports’ list of recommended products.
To complicate things though, it has to be noted that chemical sunscreens are also far from perfect. Earlier this month Hawaii became the first American to ban the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate , two ingredients that are toxic to marine life. (Don’t worry though, La Roche Posay fans, neither of which are found in the brand’s SPSF product).