Sunburn and SPF study


This weekend I went to the pool and got burned. I got really burned and I used SPF 50.  Where I live has two pools, one is an indoor pool, which I usually frequent, and the other, of course, is outside.  I know that my heritage has made me glow-in-the-dark-white, so I am usually very careful. I am the gal you see sitting by the pool with a hat on, sunglasses, a towel over my shoulders and on across my legs. And to answer your question when you see someone like me, yes I am hot. That is the reason for the huge drink with lots of ice. I got caught up with my granddaughter who wanted to play in the outdoor pool. I sprayed us both down. She did not have sunburn and I burned like no one’s business.  Of course, didn’t think of it then but know that I am sitting here feeling  the heat, I am reminded that there was a recent study about SPF and how some brands did not actually have the amount it said it had.

The study was conducted by Consumers Report.  Consumers Report is the magazine who tests everything from cars, to washing machines to sweeteners and everything in between. According to the group:

SPF StudyFormed as an independent, nonprofit organization in 1936, Consumer Reports serves consumers through unbiased product testing and ratings, research, journalism, public education, and advocacy. We stand firmly behind the principle that consumer products and services must be safe, effective, reliable, and fairly priced. We insist that manufacturers, retailers, government agencies, and others be clear and honest. We advocate for truth and transparency wherever information is hidden or unclear. We push companies to quickly address and remedy issues with their products and services.


So they decided to test SPF in popular sunscreens.  The sunscreen was tested for both UVB and UVA light.   How the SPF was tested was by applying the test panelist’s back (divided into six areas) with six different sunscreens. Then the test subjects soak in a bath.   After soaking each of those areas was exposed to six intensities of UVB light from a sun simulator. They waited a day then checked each spot for redness. For the UVA they smeared sunscreen onto plastic plates. Then a UV light was passed through and the amount of UVA and UVB rays that are absorbed was measured.  That information is then used to calculate our UVA score.SPF

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and refers to the theoretical amount of time you can stay in
the sun without getting sunburned. For example, an SPF of 15 would allow you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than you could without protection ~ One Medical

The sunscreens tested were both mineral and chemical types. Mineral sunscreens, with ingredients such as titanium dioxide and zinc, were less likely to meet their SPF claims than chemical sunscreens, with ingredients such as avobenzone. Trish Calvo (CR’s deputy editor of health and food) says.  Having done this study for over 4 years, the researchers found that 26% of mineral sunscreens tested met their SPF claim, compared to 58% of the chemical ones. Two products, claiming an SPF of 50, only tested with an SPF of 8. The FDA does require sunscreen makers to test the product but interesting enough they don’t necessarily have to report their results.

UVA rays penetrate deep into the dermis, the skin’s thickest layer. Unprotected exposure can lead to premature skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), and suppression of the immune system. UVB rays will usually burn the superficial layers of your skin.


So which were the good and which were the bad? Well there were 17 products on the good list.  Two earned perfect scores : La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk lotion, with an SPF of 60 and Trader Joe’s Spray with an SPF of 50-plus. The other 15 that were recommended are:

  • Pure Sun Defense SPF 50 Disney Frozen
  • Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50                                                        spf
  • Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50
  • No-Ad Sport SPF 50
  • Ocean Potion Protect & Nourish SPF 30
  • Aveeno Protect + Hydrate SPF 30spf
  • Banana Boat Sun Comfort Continuous Spray SPF 50+
  • Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection SPF 70
  • Caribbean Breeze Continuous Tropical Mist SPF 70
  • Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30spf
  • DG Body Sport SPF 30 (spray
  • Coppertone Kids Stick SPF 55
  • Up & Up Kids Stick SPF 55
  • Avon Sun + Sunscreen Face Lotion SPF 40
  • Up & Up Ultra Sheer SPF 30 (facial sunscreen)

The two that fell short of the SPF claim were Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free Lotion SPF 50 and CVS Kids Sun Lotion SPF 50. Both tested at an SPF of 8. OF course both makers defended their product. CVS claimed they retested and found no indications of lower SPF.  Edgewell Personal Care, maker of Banana Boat and Hawaiian Tropic products, says ”all of our sun care products undergo rigorous testing for SPF, broad spectrum and water resistance during product development; are appropriately labeled for SPF; and meet our own specifications as well as relevant FDA regulations.”

The unfortunate part is that the one I did use, isn’t on the list of good, but thankfully not on the list of the bad ones. They were mediocre.  They important thing is I used it. I didn’t use enough of it.  I should have reapplied more often.  According to the American Academy of Dermatology, I should have used about a shot-glass full for your entire body if you’re in a bathing suit. And reapply every 2 hours or sooner, especially because I was both  sweating  ( it was a 100 degrees out there) and  swimming. And after reading the report, I should just  assume, for my fair skin, that the SPF is not as high as they say it is and reapply even more often.

Now to the store for Aloe gel to cool down this burn.