2011 Top Rated Sunscreens

by Deena on May 26, 2011

As mentioned in our earlier article on Sunscreens, we wanted to share EWG’s annual sunscreen test results as soon as they became available.   The Environmental Working Group released their 2011 analysis of sunscreens earlier this week.  Their analysis includes safety and effectiveness ratings for 1,700 SPF products, including sunscreens and SPF-labeled lip balm, makeup, and moisturizer.

So how does EWG perform their analysis?

They base their analysis on sunscreen ingredient listings, then rated the products for overall safety and effectiveness in sun protection considering five factors:

  • Health hazards associated with listed ingredients;
  • UVB protection (using SPF rating as the indicator of effectiveness);
  • UVA protection (using a standard industry absorbance model);
  • The balance of UVA/UVB protection (using the ratio of UVA absorbance to SPF); and
  • Stability (how quickly a sunscreen ingredient breaks down in the sun)

Their calculated, overall rating for each product reflects a combination of the product’s health hazard rating and effectiveness rating.

Surprisingly their Top 129 Best Beach and Sport Sunscreens contained only a few brand names that we recognized (Blue Lizard and California Baby).  These brands were given low hazard rating based on the list of criteria mentioned earlier in the article.

What are the ratings of popular sunscreen brands?

Some of the more popular brands (ones that many of us may have in our beach bags) didn’t show up in the Top 129 list.  Their EWG rankings are as follows:

Banana Boat: Rated between a 6 and a 7 (high hazard) on all of their products tested

Coppertone:  Rated between a 3 (moderate hazard) to a 7 (high hazard) depending on the product

Hawaiian Tropics: Rated a 7 (high hazard) on all of their products tested

Neutrogena: Rated between a 3 (moderate hazard) to a 7 (high hazard) depending on the  product


How do I find out how my sunscreen brand performed in EWG analysis?

  1. You can visit their website.  There you will be able to search for your brand or select it from the drop down list.  It will display the overall ratings – which you can then click on to view additional details.
  2. Download their free iPhone or iPad app on iTunes


So now what do I do?

Well if you’re like Angela and I you will probably review EWG results and determine what you are willing to accept or not accept in a sunscreen for your family.  Maybe you only want to chose a sunscreen rated low hazard because you feel that would be the best option based on health concerns.  Or maybe you’re willing to select a medium rated (i.e. a 3 rating) sunscreen because it’s better than other options but also more cost effective.    Whatever you decide at least you know you’re making a decision based on knowledge instead of packaging or marketing materials from the brand company.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Leigh Westmoreland June 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Looked at the list and we use California Baby!! You can get it at Target in the baby isle.

admin June 9, 2011 at 9:04 am

Thanks for the tip Leigh. I know a few people were worried about the cost of the higher rated sunscreens. Good to know Target is carrying them!!

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