About 40% of the top selling sunscreens on a U.S. retail website do not meet the American Academy of Dermatology’s (AAD) guidelines for sunscreens. This was largely due to a lack of water or sweat resistance, according to a study published online in JAMA Dermatology (July 6, 2016).
The AAD criteria state that the sunscreen must be broad spectrum, have an SPF of 30 or greater, and must be water or sweat resistant. The researchers also found consumers spend up to 3,000% more for products that provide the same sunscreen protection as lower-cost sunscreens. Investigators wanted to identify high performing products that are affordable and popular so they would know what to recommend to their patients.
“We are often asked to recommend sunscreens, and we wanted to know what consumers prefer,” said lead study author Dr. Steve Xu, a resident in dermatology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, in a press release. “This way we are suggesting popular products they will actually use that will protect them.”
“You do not want to wear a chalky, greasy, terrible-smelling product, even if your dermatologist recommends it,” said Dr. Xu. “This gave us insight into what consumers prefer, so it can guide our recommendations and be cost conscious.”
To identify the most popular sunscreens, investigators looked at the top rated 1% of the 6,500 sunscreens with four or more stars sold on Amazon.com. They came up with the 65 top-rated products. Their median price was US$3.32 an ounce; median SPF was 35 (range, 4 to 110; 89% (58 of 65) were 30 or higher); 92% had broad-spectrum coverage claims and 62% were labelled as water or sweat resistant. The cheapest sunscreen was US$0.68 cents an ounce and the most expensive was US$24 an ounce.
The investigators found that cosmetic elegance was the most cited positive feature (198 of 325 [61%] comments) followed by product performance (146 of 325 [45%] comments) and skin type compatibility (78 of 325 [24%] comments).
“Our list provides dermatologists, other health care professionals, and patients with a cohort of sunscreen products organized by consumer preference, ranked by price or rating, and detailed information regarding how those products adhered to sunscreen performance standards together with their consumer reviews,” concluded the authors.