Walk down the aisle of your local convenience store, and you’ll notice a number of sunscreens, lotions and other products with SPF. Not only do you have to choose between them, but you need to consider if you want a name brand or generic. While you’d like to save money, everyone wants to feel like their skin is getting protection with the best sunscreen, so this is one area you don’t want to scrimp on. We have the scoop on what the experts think about how to find safe, affordable sun protection.
Generic vs. brand name sunscreens
Neda Ashourian, M.D., of the Northwestern Skin Cancer Institute says that she doesn’t recommend one type of sunscreen over another because it is a matter of personal preference. She believes you’ll see the difference in price because of the formulation of the sunscreen, which can include creams, gels, lotions, sticks, bottles and tubes.
“I emphasize it has to be broad spectrum,” she explains of her main sunscreen qualification. “I don’t want to name a brand, but there are brands out there that say non-comedogenic, so I’d recommend that for someone who has acne.”
The Environmental Working Group is more opinionated about the ingredients that go into the sunscreen rather than the brand. Spokesperson Leeann Brown says there are four ingredients that are most effective: zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, and Mexoryl SX. If it has the right ingredients, are all generic sunscreens safe to use?
“We have seen concerns from generic brand sunscreens as well as top name brand sunscreens. Even Banana Boat and Coppertone have labeling practices that will soon be outlawed,” Brown continues. “We’ve seen top companies still selling products that will be misbranded in a number of months. We’ve also seen that from store brands as well. “
Remembering to reapply despite claims on the sunscreen label can help provide safe usage regardless of what kind you buy. Dr. Ashourian says she believes since the Food and Drug Adminstration tests sunscreens, any that are on the market should be generally safe to use.
Saving Money with SPF Products
Many products in beauty aisles nowadays have SPF. In fact, it’s almost harder to find products without it. However, consolidating SPF products might not be the best solution. Many face lotions and makeup have SPF in them, leaving consumers to believe they are safe from the sun just by putting on their moisturizer. Dr. Ashourian warns against this because she says since most makeup has below SPF 30 and that is inadequate.
“Many do not specify whether they are broad spectrum or not. There is not enough data in terms of the spectrum.” Her suggestion is to follow her own routine of first applying sunscreen and then applying makeup on top.
She does encourage patients to go for the product with SPF as an extra layer of protection. Brown also cites that about 34 percent of men wear sunscreen compared to 78 percent of women, but this number is so drastically different only because women wear it in makeup and lotions.
The Bottom Line
Overall, remember that just because a sunscreen is more expensive or a more reputable brand doesn’t mean it is a sure thing to protect your skin.
“Price doesn’t necessarily mean a safer sunscreen,” Brown reiterates. “It’s really important to look at what’s actually in the bottle. Some small companies produce really great sunscreens. …so it really is kind of a case-by-case basis when it comes to looking at brands.”