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Your Favorite Sunscreen May Not Be Protecting You Enough

Jul 07, 2016 02:30 AM EDT

Nearly half of the top-selling sunscreens in the market may not be as effective as they promised to be, a new study found.

According to a new study, which was published in JAMA Dermatology, nearly 40 percent of the most popular sunscreen brands fall short of meeting the criteria set by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

"[Dermatologists] are often asked to recommend sunscreens, and we wanted to know what consumers prefer," Dr. Steve Xu, lead author of the study, said in a report from CNN.

"This way, we are suggesting popular products they will actually use that will protect them," he added.

According to the research, popular sunscreen products from well-known brands such as Neutrogena and Eucerin did not meet the academy's sunscreen recommendations because of their lack of water resistance.

The AAD has set three criteria for sunscreen recommendation:

1.     Broad spectrum - Sunscreens should protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

2.     SPF - Sunscreens should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

3.     Water resistance - Sunscreens should be water- and sweat-resistant.

However, the study showed that these factors do not play a major role in the consumers' sunscreen choices. According to the researchers, consumers are more driven by what they called "cosmetic elegance," or how the product feels when applied, how it smells and how good the color looks.

In the study, the researchers looked at the top 1 percent of the consumer-rated 6,500 sunscreens sold on The goal was to identify the high-performing products that are both popular and affordable to encourage adherence to sunscreen use.

The researchers found that 25 of the top 65 products did not meet the AAD criteria. Additionally, three out of the top four sunscreens were not water- and sweat-resistant, the researchers said.

Moreover, nine out of 10 least-expensive sunscreens included in the research met all three AAD guidelines.

While cosmetic elegance ranks higher in consumer preference, performance only comes second. This includes the product's effectiveness, whether or not the product delivered to its promise, or whether the three AAD criteria were met.

"You don't want to wear a chalky, greasy, terrible-smelling product, even if your dermatologist recommends it," Dr. Xu said in a report by Live Science.

"[The findings] gave us insight into what consumers prefer, so [they] can guide our recommendations and be cost-conscious," he added.

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