Lonely Planet Writer

Cheaper sun creams are just as effective as big brand names say scientists

Forking out extra money for big name branded sun creams has no extra benefit compared to much cheaper products in helping escape a nasty burn, according to scientists.

Cheaper sun creams just as good as more expensive ones.
Cheaper sun creams just as good as more expensive ones. Image by Getty Images

In the midst of a heatwave in parts of Europe, a major research project looking at top-selling brands of sun protection also found that 40% of them are not meeting official guidelines for sunscreens.

Two out of five failed to fulfil criteria set by the American Academy of Dermatology for protection, primarily because they were less effective when people sweated or got wet.

The research by Northwestern Medicine in Chicago was designed to find the best performing sunscreens for dermatologists and doctors to recommend to patients.

According to the study, sunscreen use remains low for adolescents and adults and even when people do use sunscreen, they’re either not using enough of it or applying it frequently enough.

Dr Steve Xu explained: “We are often asked to recommend sunscreens, and we wanted to know what consumers prefer. This way we [can suggest] … popular products they will actually use that will protect them.”

Their research found there could be an incredible 3000%  price differential between products even though they performed equally well.

The study looked at the top rated 1% of the 6500 sunscreens available on the Amazon website, all of which had a score of four or more stars.

No need to spend a fortune on sun creams say experts.
No need to spend a fortune on sun creams say experts. Image by Matthew Straubmuller / CC BY 2.0

They found that the average price was around $3.32 – or around €3 – per ounce (28 grams) with an average sun protection factor of 35, and just over 60% claiming to be either water or sweat resistant.

The cheapest sunscreen was just 68 cents an ounce (€0.60) even though it did just as good a job as the most expensive, which cost an astonishing $24 per ounce (€21.77).

The researchers said that sunscreen was even more important for some people with particular dermatological conditions that make their skin hyper-sensitive to the sun.

Dr Steve Xu explained: “Dermatologists should have a voice in consumer choices when it comes to skin health, a voice that takes the patients’ best interests at heart and is not influenced by marketing claims.”