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The Best (& Worst!) Performing Sunscreens Under $9

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Hand holding a bottle of Coppertone sunscreen with tropical leaves and flowers on bottle

Sun protection doesn’t have to burn your summer fun budget. ☀️

You want a quality sunscreen, but don’t want to spend a fortune on skin protection – we hear ya! Thanks to Consumer Reports, we’ve got you covered with the best sunscreens to buy (that are also affordable!), and ones to absolutely stay away from.

woman wearing pink skirt playing with pool float and two kids at pool

Important reminder:

Always use your sunscreens as directed to help prevent premature skin aging and risk of skin cancers. It’s also important to check the expiration date before using it. According to SkinCancer.org, you should apply sunscreen every day, apply 30 minutes before going outside, and reapply every 2 hours.


Hip Tip: SPF Sunscreen is eligible for reimbursement with FSA, HSA, and HRA accounts. A broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF15+ protection (and above) is FSA and HSA eligible! And to make shopping for these products even easier, Amazon now has an FSA & HSA Store!


Best sunscreens under $9!


1. Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+

Hand holding a bright blue bottle of Trader Joe's sunscreen spray

As if we could love Trader Joe’s even more. Their sunscreen spray has been given the highest ranking for spray sunscreen application by Consumer Reports, and for good reason! It provides UVA & UVB protection, contains skin-nourishing ingredients like aloe, vitamin E, and coconut oil, and it’s water-resistant!

The best part?… It’s only $6 a can! 😱 All the more reason to love Trader Joe’s!


2. Banana Boat SunComfort Clear UltraMist Spray SPF 50+

Hand holding a bottle of banana boat sunscreen spray with various brands in the background on the store shelf

This great aerosol option offers excellent UVA and UVB protection. Its formula leaves minimal residue so it won’t feel sticky or tacky (perfect for the beach)! Along with this spray’s water resistance, you’ll enjoy the nice coconut and tropical fruit aroma. 🏝

Hip Tip: The packaging has recently been updated to a light blue bottle, so keep an eye out for the branding change when shopping for this sunscreen.


3. Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 70

hand holding a bottle of coppertone sunscreen with tropical leaves and flowers on bottle

This lotion slathers on the protection with excellent protection performance along with being water-resistant. Testers also reported this sunscreen has a barely noticeable aroma.

“We really like the Coppertone sunscreen. Our entire family is Casper-white redheads and we need superior protection and this stuff works!” – Stacy, Hip2Save reader 


4. Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50

Hand holding a bottle of equate sunscreen with various brands and bottles on store shelf in background

Yep, that’s a generic brand ranking near the top of this list. Walmart’s Equate brand lotion offers excellent UVA/UVB protection sunscreen performing up to its 50 SPF claim. The scent is a classic, beachy fragrance of floral and citrus.

Hip Tip: Hoping to make it to the beach once the stay at home orders are lifted? You have to see these genius beach hacks we shared!


5. Up & Up Kids’ Sunscreen Stick SPF 55

Hand holding a package of kids sunscreen sticks in store

This tiny stick scores “Very Good” for UVA and UVB protection. The only downfall: the Consumer Reports panel did mention a very slight plastic aroma (which can occur with the fragrance-free product), and it leaves behind a slightly waxy film.


6. Equate Sport Continuous Spray SPF 30

Hand holding a bottle of equate sunscreen spray with store shelf in background

Equate is not a force to be reckoned with (this is the SECOND time they’ve made the list)! This spray version of their sunscreen receives its high rank from solid UVA/UVB protection. It also has a pleasant, beachy aroma and a wide spray application (helpful with antsy kids running for the sun and surf).

“I was so tired of paying for pricey sunscreen and decided to try the Equate Sport spray. Now it’s the only kind of spray we ever use! It works great for our whole family and we hardly ever have issues with sunburn when we use it correctly. Plus, you can’t beat the price! Full disclosure – we don’t use this on our faces. For that, we use Neutrogena Sensitive Skin sunscreen SPF 60+.” – Holly, Hip2Save reader 


7. Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection Spray SPF 70

Row of yellow Neutrogena beach defense sunscreen bottles on store shelves

The dermatologist-recommended suncare brand Neutrogena developed this formula with beach-goers in mind. This lightweight, oil-free, and fast-absorbing spray is great for active families, and it’s perfect for easy application in sandy areas. It scored Excellent overall, with a UVA protection of “Very Good”.


Worst sunscreens tested by Consumer Reports!


1. Banana Boat Kids Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+

Hand holding a yellow bottle of kids sport banana boat sunscreen with store shelf in background

Don’t let the advertised “SPF 50+” fool you. This children’s sunscreen lotion ranked “Poor” in sun protection and deviated more than 50% from its 50+ claim. Testers also found it left a white cast and film on the skin.


2. Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50

Hand holding a bottle of babyganics sunscreen with store shelves in background

This is probably the most shocking of them all! With positive reviews on Walmart.com, this sunscreen formulated for babies fell wildly short of the 50 SPF claim – it tested under SPF 10! It was also reported to have below-average protection against UVA rays and cast a white, greasy film on the skin. No, thank you!


Consumer Reports’ top sunscreen recommendation:


La Roche Posay Anthelios 60

la roche posay anthelios sunscreen with blue background and sunglasses on table

If the budget-friendly sunscreens we already shared don’t quite meet the criteria you’re looking for, this one’s rated the best of them all! Although, your wallet will surely pay for it…

The La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk rings in at over 30 bucks for a 5 oz. bottle, however, it’s rated highest by the Consumer Reports research team. It’s dermatologist tested, allergy tested, paraben-free, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and contains antioxidants to protect skin from free radicals.

Oh, and did we mention it has superior UV protection? The only thing this lotion can’t do is shake the beach sand from your towel.


Get a natural-looking tan with these self-tanners that our team is obsessed with!

Join The Discussion

Comments 40

  1. Katie

    I am surprised to see the Babyganics listed here with such a poor rating. That is all I have ever used on my extremely fair skinned 4 year old – and have also used it myself (I am, suprise, also very fair). Neither of us has every burned while using it, including many trips to the beach, park, and zoo!

    • MrsG

      We use that kind too. 🤷🏼‍♀️

    • Tina

      I love babyganics! Especially the spray one (NOt aerosol). Have been using it for a couple years on adults and kids

    • Maggie

      There is some controversy among dermatologists over the CR rating method — ALL mineral sunscreens did badly under it. That caused a lot of raised eyebrows. CR wouldn’t release some details of the testing methodology, and so the derms I have talked to are pretty skeptical because the protocol can’t be examined and may have a flaw with regard to accuracy with mineral sunscreens — nobody can figure it out. The derms I know use mineral sunscreens themselves and recommend them, despite CR.

      • MrsG

        Thanks for sharing, Maggie!

  2. Cstal

    Thanks so much for the information!! Very helpful as nicer weather comes around. Thank you Hip2Save for all that you do!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re most welcome, Cstal! SO glad this post was helpful! 🤗

  3. Jennifer L.

    Love this post- as a Floridian we go through a ton of sunscreen year-round. Does anyone know if off hand ifany of these score well on the ewg safety ratings?

    • lynsiks

      I don’t think any of these are highly rated on the EWG if I remember right. I always go for a 1 or 2 score and I don’t think any of these were on that list. I swear most of the 1s and 2s on the EWG are freaking expensive.

    • Veronica

      Nearly all of these score pretty poorly, I think. Most Coppertone and Banana Boat score low.

    • Maggie

      NO! It’s opposite land because all the EWG good sunscreens are mineral, and all the mineral ones did terribly under the mystery-CR protocol. CR only scores chemical sunscreens high under their system. I had a long convo with a derm about this — there is NO overlap between the “good” ones on EWG and the “good” ones on CR, which is frustrating. I emailed CR about it (and EWG), and both of them ignored my email. See my post above.

    • Stef81

      Try alba botanicals…I use it on myself and kids and it does great. Also good on ewg.

  4. J. Sweet.

    I have had several samples of La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk IT IS AMAZING!!! I can’t really afford it right now, but mother’s day is on Sunday and my mama needs it!!! thanks for the tip!! (fyi- amazon is price matching with wal-mart’s price with a $5 off coupon, too!!!!!)

    • Jen

      One way to get la roche possey inexpensively, is to buy it at cvs. It’s the same regular price, but if you wait until you have a percent off coupon, you can get a really great price.

    • hip2jen

      Yes it’s the best!

    • Mary

      Try Walgreens online. They have a buy one get one 50% off so you get two 3oz. (total of 6oz) for $32.98 plus a “free gift” while supplies last of La Roche-Posay Effaclar Clarifying Oil-Free Cleansing Towelettes Face Wipes! No promo code needed.

  5. Suz

    Nice post. Do you want a great idea for kiddos to do an experiment while they are home? My son did it as his science project years ago. Buy some UV pony beads, which can be found at Walmart, Michaels, or many other places. Put different brands of sunscreen on the beads and compare to see how effective or how long lasting the sunscreen is. He was able to move forward in his science project to the state level with this experiment. Plus, you could always use the beads to make necklaces or bracelets. When they are colorful it means there is UV light and you need to use sunscreen. It also shows how some UV still gets through windows or shady tree areas. It may help those kids resistant to letting you put it on them by proving with the colorful beads that they need to sunscreen, and when to re-apply. It is much easier to see colorful beads as a reminder than wonder when you last applied. Please get skin checks. Not all skin cancer is created equal. I still have people amazed you can lose your life from it. I lost my husband to melanoma. Please be safe.

    • J. Sweet.

      I’m sorry about your husband…We are all fair in my family and the idea of melanoma is a reality…Thanks for the tip about the uv beads! I would never have thought to compare, but since it matters it’s a huge idea!

      • Suz

        Thank you.

    • Renee

      Condolences on the loss of your husband Suz 🙁 Thank you for this vital and informative post. I had no idea UV pony beads existed. What a good idea to show my kids the real effect of UV rays! It’s so easy to forget how damaging those rays are except when you start to see the cumulative effects on aging or G-d forbid suffer from skin cancer.

      • Suz

        Thank you. Any way to turn learning and safety into a fun/cool project the better.

    • Jen

      My heart goes out to you! I am so sorry to hear that you lost your husband. I lost my sister to melanoma.

  6. Suzanne

    Some insurance may cover the cost of sunscreen. If we have money left over in our medical spending account at the end of the year, we stock up! We go through it quickly since we’re outside a lot.

  7. Thia

    What’s up with all the spray sun screen, I thought that was bad not only for those who inhale it but also our environment. Am I missing something? Has manufactures found a way to make this safe? Not trying to be negative here, I’m really interested to know.

    • Julie

      maybe short term protection versus long term consequences?
      I have some spray sunblock to spay a hair part line, but usually use the rub-in lotion sunblock.

  8. Kay

    I got Blue Lizard a couple of years ago cause of a similar post on here that long ago. I don’t c it mentioned at all this time. How long does sunscreen last? Should we buy new ones every summer?

    • Irene (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Kay. For the expiration of your sunscreen, it may be a good idea to stick to what expiration date is on the packaging. Great question!

  9. acgold

    One of the best sunscreens we have found is made for CVS and Walgreens. It is the clear zinc under both labels. We found it in San Diego a few years ago. We can’t get it all the time on the East Coast, so we order on line. It goes on white but turns clear as you lightly apply. Never a reaction, good coverage, good price. My sister and Dad were redheads and very fair and both had skin cancer. My sister uses La Roche-Posay Anthelios on her face as she has had Mohs surgery twice on her nose and forehead. She uses the clear zinc on her body. She swears by EWG ratings!

    • Irene (Hip Sidekick)

      Thank you for taking the time to share your personal review of those products, acgold! It’s always great to learn of products through our Hip community!

  10. Beverly

    I agree completely about Equate! I’ve had very good experiences with their sports sunscreens–and I tend to burn from just thinking about the sun. 🙂

    • Lanamamma

      I may be mistaken, but I’m not seeing either of the equate products on the CR list, nor any mention of it.

      • Lanamamma

        My bad… Not in the main list, but found when searching.

  11. Heather

    Banana boat had a dry spray couple years ago that I just loved it wasn’t greasy, covered great but now I can’t find it. I wonder if sun comfort replaced it? I hate greasy feeling sunscreens

    • Jamie

      Maybe their dry balance spray? It’s available online and I love it – goes on light and not greasy at all. Also smells tropical. 🙂

  12. Amanda Nash

    The La Roche Posay Anthelios 60 sunscreen is on sale right now at CVS for only $19.99!

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Awesome! Thank you!

  13. Leilani

    If you are going to be swimming at the beach, please be sure to use products that are safe for the reefs. Hawaii is banning the sale of sunscreen containing oxybenzone and octinoxate effective January 1, 2021. Also avoid products containing petrolatum (mineral oil) and a high content of titanium dioxide. You can google reef safe products. Let’s save our oceans and marine life.

  14. Meranda

    LOVE targets up & up brand. We’ve been using it exclusively for a couple years (spray and lotion not listed in the post) and it has worked so well!

  15. TH

    That Babyganics sunscreen works great, and I’ve been using it on mine and my kids’ fair skin for years. I hardly tan, and have been using sunscreen my whole life, and I can vouch for the fact that this works. It does cast a white film, but it’s mineral so that’s typical. Even if it’s not the best sunscreen out there, it’s FAR from the worst! One of the cheapest sunscreens that scores well on the EWG that I’ve found.

  16. kimhavelka

    My son hates the up and up spray. It smells strong, is greasy, and takes a while to dry. I’ve heard it stains white swim suits, too

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