Almost a third of the products tested fell short of the SPF claim on their labels. We found differences between the claimed SPF and the actual SPF in our tests last year as well. Eleven products did not deliver their promised protection and missed the mark by anywhere from 16 to 70 percent. That doesn't mean the sunscreens aren't protective, but you may not be getting the protection you think you are.
While the majority of the sunscreens received excellent or very good UVA scores, four received good scores and three received fair or poor scores.
In our tests over the years, so-called "natural" or mineral sunscreens--those that contain only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or both as active ingredients-- have tended to perform less well than those that have chemical active ingredients, such as avobenzone. None of the five mineral sunscreens in our tests this year did well enough to make our list of recommendations.
The sensory aspects of sunscreen are important to many people. You're less likely to use one if you don't like its scent or feel. Our sensory testing found many that did not feel heavy or sticky on skin, and in many cases these were also high-performing products. Sunscreens come in a vareity of fragrances. In addition to the classic beachy scent, the ones in our tests had tropical, floral, baby powder, citrus, and woodsy/outdoorsy notes. We also found that no fragrance doesn't always mean no odor. Many fragrance-free sunscreens had a slight amount of plastic smell (think beach ball).