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40% of Top-Selling Sunscreens Don't Meet Guidelines


When you spend money on a sunscreen, you expect it to deliver as promised. However, a new analysis reveals that about 40 percent of the top-selling sunscreens on don’t meet the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) guidelines for sunscreens.

According to the study, the biggest problem is a lack of water or sweat resistance. Additionally, some products did not meet the AAD criteria for SPF and broad-spectrum claims.

For the purposes of the study, the researchers looked at the 65 top-rated sunscreen products on Of these…

  • 92 percent had broad-spectrum coverage claims
  • 62 percent were labeled as water or sweat resistant
  • Creams were most common
  • Median SPF was 35
  • Median price was $3.32 an ounce
  • The cheapest sunscreen was 68 cents an ounce
  • The most expensive was $24 an ounce.

The most striking variation was price, which varied by more than 3000%.

When came to selecting a sunscreen, customer preference is primarily based on cosmetic elegance. This includes how it feels on the skin, how it’s applied and the color or scent. This was followed by product performance and compatibility with skin type.

“We are often asked to recommend sunscreens, and we wanted to know what consumers prefer,” said lead author Dr. Steve Xu. “You don’t want to wear a chalky, greasy, terrible-smelling product, even if your dermatologist recommends it.”

“Dermatologists should counsel patients that sunscreen products come with numerous marketing claims and varying cosmetic applicability, all of which must be balanced with adequate photoprotection,” the study concludes.



Many top selling sunscreens don’t offer adequate protection. Press Release. Northwestern University via EurekAlert. Jul 2016.

Xu S, et al. Sunscreen Product Performance and Other Determinants of Consumer. JAMA Dermatology. Published online first Jul 2016.

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