SPF Levels Printed on Sunscreen Labels Differ from Tested Sunscreen Levels

Public Health Watchdog Breaking News
Public Health Watchdog Breaking News

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all sunscreens match labeled levels. However, “fully half came in below the SPF number on the label, and a third registered below an SPF 40,” Fortune reports. Over 40 percent of the 60 sunscreens that experts tested fall short of their SPF numbers printed on the products’ label, according to a new Consumer Reports study.

Three of the sunscreens had an actual level of less than 15 despite the fact that they claimed they had an SPF of 30 or higher. These included Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free SPF 50 lotion and CVS Kids Sun Lotion SPF 50, which both tested at an SPF 8, reports CBS News. These results leave many consumers at risk for sunburn and potentially hazardous long-term skin damage, and has people thinking they are properly protected when they are not.

Often called “natural” sunscreens, mineral products performed particularly poorly. These sunscreens contain only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or both, as active ingredients. Of the 19 mineral sunscreens tested, only 26 percent met their SPF claims. Of the 85 chemical sunscreens tested, 58 percent met their claims.

There are 17 sunscreens on Consumer Reports’ “recommended” list. More complete coverage on sunscreens will be available in the upcoming July issue of the magazine.

Deputy editor of health and food of Consumer Reports Trisha Calvo said that mineral sunscreens were less likely to meet their SPF claims than chemical sunscreens, with ingredients such as avobenzone. The FDA requires sunscreen makers test their products, but in most cases, the agency does not require them to submit their results.

Tim Turnham, PhD, the executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation, said that the disparity between claimed SPF protection and tested SPF is a “cause for real concern.”

Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, senior vice-president of the Skin Cancer Foundation says, the report “raises very important points about the importance of SPF as well as the importance of broad-spectrum UVA protection as a means to reduce the risk of skin cancer and to minimize premature skin aging.”