These 3 Sunscreens Protect Skin Without Burning Your Wallet

Woman applying sunscreen
Photo by Maridav /

Good news for frugal shoppers: You can protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays without burning a hole in your wallet.

Consumer Reports has released its annual ratings for dozens of sun-protection products, which reveals that some affordable options apparently shield your skin just as effectively as pricier alternatives.

During testing, Consumer Reports analyzed lotions, sprays and sticks for effectiveness and also noted characteristics such as scent and how the product feels on the skin.

The organization recommends 10 products, those that received an overall score CR considers in the “excellent” range.

Products that achieved that honor included inexpensive brands. Three of the products rated “excellent” received Consumer Reports’ “Best Buy” designation. They are:

An additional 36 products earned scores in the “very good” range, making them “acceptable choices,” Consumer Reports says.

In arriving at its rankings, Consumer Reports based its testing on a protocol used by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CR combined this approach with its own methodology “to identify differences in performance and give consumers a comparative evaluation.”

Susan Booth, the project leader for CR’s sunscreen testing, says:

“We buy the sunscreens for our tests off the shelf, the way consumers would. We use three samples, preferably with different lot numbers, of each product.”

These products were sent to a lab and tested for:

  • Sun protection factor (SPF), which measures how effectively a sunscreen protects against sunburn.
  • Variation from SPF, which measures how closely a sunscreen’s tested SPF matches the SPF claim on a product’s label.
  • Ultraviolet A (UVA) protection, which measures a product’s ability to block out the sun’s UVA rays, which penetrate deeply into the skin and lead to skin cancer and skin aging.

Consumer Reports’ testing makes it clear that you do not always get what you pay for. In fact, it’s easy to waste money on sunscreen — prices for the products in the survey ranged from 44 cents per ounce to a whopping $12.12 per ounce.

For example, La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk earned a perfect overall score of 100. But it also costs $7.20 per ounce.

How to protect yourself from the sun this summer

You can choose the best sunscreen in the world, but it won’t be effective if you don’t use it correctly — or if you make other mistakes.

For example, choosing the wrong type of clothing can leave you inadequately protected. As we report in “3 Mistakes That Can Make Your Sun Protection Worthless“:

“In general, light-colored, lightweight and loosely woven fabrics offer less sun protection than darker and heavier fabrics.”

Fail to protect your skin, and a painful sunburn will let you know the error of your ways. Unfortunately, the sun also can damage your eyes without you realizing it.

The best way to protect your peepers is to purchase a pair of sunglasses that block UV light. Luckily, as with sunscreen, you do not need to spend a fortune for proper protection. For more, check out “Is It Worth It to Pay Extra for Fancy Sunglasses?

Which sunscreen do you recommend? Share your thoughts in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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