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The best sunscreens for your money

The best sunscreens for your money
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Theo Thimou |
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Consumer Reports is out with its latest rank of sunscreens, and it turns out you don’t have to pay big bucks to protect your skin from harsh UV rays.

Here’s what so funny: Two of the highest rated sunscreens that got ‘best buy’ recommendations turned out to be the cheapest ones the magazine tested!

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Great sunscreen protection doesn’t have to break the bank

Want the best sunscreen for your money? Check out these options…


Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50

This Walmart store brand lotion is a ‘best buy’ recommendation from Consumer Reports with a score of 92 out of 100.

It costs only 47 cents an ounce — the cheapest unit price of any lotion tested!

Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (13%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%) and Oxybenzone (4%).

Scoring slightly higher in the lotion category was this Walmart favorite:

Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50

walmart sport lotion sunscreen

Walmart’s Sport Lotion sunscreen got a nearly perfect score at 99 out of 100 on the magazine’s tally. The cost was 63 cents per ounce, and it was a ‘best buy.’

This bottle has a slightly different formulation than its cheaper counterpart, with less Octocrylene (5%) and more Oxybenzone (6%) while all the other ingredients hold steady in the same quantities.

Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50

Not a fan of Walmart? Coppertone Water Babies scored a 95 out of 100, at a cost of $1.13 an ounce.

Yet we should note that the Coppertone has the exact same active ingredient composition — in the exact same ratios — as the Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50!

Why would you pay more than twice as much for the name brand when you can get the same formulation in a store brand?

Meanwhile, at the other extreme…

If you balked at the higher price of the Coppertone offering we just mentioned, it’s nothing compared to La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk. We’re talking $7.20 per ounce on this one!!

In its defense, La Roche-Posay was the only brand to score a perfect 100 on the Consumer Reports test. But who can stomach that price?

Moreover, the La Roche-Posay had an active ingredient composition remarkably similar to the cheaper competition: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10.72%), Octisalate (3.21%), Octocrylene (6%) and Oxybenzone (3.86%).

Again, why pay way more for basically the same stuff?!?


Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+

When it comes to sprays, this Trader Joe’s offering scored a perfect 100 on the Consumer Reports annual tally!

At $1 an ounce, it might be worth a look. Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (15%), Octisalate (5%) and Oxybenzone (6%).

Yet there was a cheaper recommended option you may want to consider…

Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30

At 83 cents an ounce, this Walmart store brand scored an 83.

Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (2%) and Oxybenzone (4%).


Clearly, it’s possible to get all the protection from the sun’s harmful rays you need and not break the bank.

Just be sure that whatever sunscreen you get says ‘broad spectrum’ on the label for maximum protection. That will ensure that it protects against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.

Consumer Reports says UVB is the biggest culprit when it comes to sunburn and it also plays a role in skin cancer. UVA, meanwhile, is responsible for tanning and aging skin, in addition to contributing to skin cancer.

You also want to see the words ‘SPF 30’ (or higher) and ‘water resistance’ on the label of whatever you sunscreen you get. These are all federally regulated terms with specific meanings.

Some terms that aren’t regulated and are therefore practically meaningless — because the definition can change from manufacturer to manufacturer — include ‘Sport,’ ‘Dermatologist Recommended,’ ‘Natural,’ Mineral Based’ and ‘Reef Safe.’

That last descriptor made the news recently when Hawaii announced it would ban the sale of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate beginning in 2021. Both are chemical sunscreen ingredients believed to threaten coral reefs.

If you want an ecologically safe alternative that’s cheap too, Consumer Reports says you might consider clothing that’s UPF-rated for ultraviolet protection; sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide; or maybe even a chemical-based sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone.

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