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7 Top Performing Sunscreens Under $9 – AND 3 of The Worst!

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coppertone ultraguard sunscreen

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

You want a quality sunscreen (you’re not cooking me, harmful UVA and UVB rays!), but you also don’t want to spend a fortune on skin protection. Consumer Reports has got you covered, and we’ve got the deals! Check out these best, top-rated sunscreens that’ll cost you less than your beach parking pass. (We’ve also got three of the worst sunscreen options.)

*Note these prices may vary by location and are meant to be used as a base comparison price.


Best sunscreens under $9

 

1. Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+ (CR Score: 100)

trader joe's sunscreen spray spf 50 hip2save

Trader Joe’s: $5.99

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!


2. Banana Boat SunComfort Clear UltraMist Spray SPF 50+ (CR Score: 96)

banana boat suncomfort spf 50 sunscreen spray at walmart

Rite Aid: $8.04

This great aerosol option offers excellent UVA and UVB protection. Its formula leaves very little 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 (CR Score: 94)

coppertone sunscreen lotion in spf 70

Amazon: $7.57

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.


4. Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 (CR Score: 94)

equate sunscreen lotion in spf 50

Walmart: $7.48

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: Planning a summer vacation? Check out these ways to save big on travel!


5. Up & Up Kids’ Sunscreen Stick SPF 55 (CR Score: 84)

target up & up brand kids' sunscreen stick

Target: $7.69

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 (CR Score: 83)

equate sunscreen spray sport in spf 30

Walmart: $3.98

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).


7. Neutrogena Beach Defense Water + Sun Protection Spray SPF 70 (CR Score: 82)

neutrogena beach defense sunscreen spray spf 70 hip2save

Walmart: $8.97

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. Hint Sunscreen, SPF 30, Pear (CR Score: 35)

hint sunscreen on a Target store shelf

Despite positive reviews on Target.com and an overall “Fair” report in performance, Consumer Reports testing found that this SPF spray varied over 50% below its advertised sun protection value. Keep in mind this was only for the Pear scent, though it could be assumed that the other fragrances may perform similarly.


2. Banana Boat Kids Sport Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50+ (CR Score: 27)

banana boat kids sunscreen lotion in spf 50

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.


3. Babyganics Mineral-Based Baby Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 50 (CR Score: 22)

babyganics baby sunscreen lotion

This is probably the most shocking of all! Even with positive reviews on Target.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 lotion recommendation?

la roche posay anthelios 60 melt in sunscreen milk

It’s La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 Melt-In Sunscreen Milk. And while it rings in at a whopping $36 for a 5 oz bottle, it’s rated 100/100 by the CR 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.


Hack your next beach trip with these clever tips.

Join The Discussion

Comments 64

  1. tipaye

    Thank you!

    • Collin (Mrs. Hip)

      You’re so welcome!

  2. Holly Davis

    I always see lists like this and read with my fingers crossed hoping that what we use is on it! Ha! I have tried LOTS of different types of sunscreen because one of my kids has sensitive skin. I was so tired of paying the high price for Coppertone 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. We hardly ever have issues with sunburn when we use it correctly and 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+)

  3. Linds

    I always check the EWG as well before choosing a sunscreen. They tell you which sunscreens not only work well, but are safe for your body. 😊 Thanks for putting this together!

    • Cindi

      Yes! Those health ratings should be priority first and foremost!

  4. S

    Please remember to reapply sunscreen. Ours is effective for 80-90 minutes.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for the reminder, S!

  5. Jen

    I appreciate you putting this list together. I wonder which ones are “reef safe” as well?

    • Liz

      What is “reef safe”?

      • Mel

        Ingredients in sunscreens affect underwater life. I think its Hawaii where brands are banned from ocean use if they contain certain ingredients.

    • je

      Reef-safe ones are mineral-based, and contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. They typically leave a white tint on your skin, but if you take the time to rub it in, it’s not too bad. Definitely shows up more on darker complexions. Anything with chemicals are bad for reefs.

    • Mackyjane

      Me too. It’s been so difficult finding the sunscreens with only zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for my baby and us! It’s been hard to find anything larger than a 3oz bottle as well.

      • Abby

        @mackyjane we use zinc oxide cream from cvs on one of my kids who has really bad sensitivities to the chemicals in sunscreens. It has worked really well for us.

  6. Allie

    Oh no! We use the Babyganics spray version of the one listed. I’ve liked it and my kids have never gotten burned. I’ll start looking for a new favorite. Thanks for the list!

  7. Mimi

    Another reason to love Trader Joe’s! ♥️

  8. acgold

    We love the CVS clear zinc 50. It is a physical barrier which EWG suggests. We can only buy it online in the East and it is effective and not expensive.

  9. Tm

    Just FYI- we tried blue lizard this year and loooove it! The bottle turns blue in uv light so my kids know it’s time to put on sunscreen! It does have some chemicals in it, but not reef killing ones and we haven’t gotten burnt wearing it (and we burn sooo easy!) it’s a tad chalky, but way better than “natural” sunscreens.

    • Jen

      Agree! I’ve been using the sensitive type of Blue Lizard for years now. Sadly, I can’t use that stuff on my face as a daily facial sunscreen since it can be very drying which irritates my skin and then I break out with excessive moisturizing…it’s a losing battle.

    • Brittany

      Blue Lizard is highly recommended by my doctor friends.

  10. Rebecca

    Good to see the Equate got good ratings! We use it and go through a lot(FL with a pale ginger kiddo) and have never gotten burnt.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      I was thinking the same thing! We use the Equate often too. It has worked well for us. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  11. Lisa

    FYI Ladies for your face …Know the difference between physical and chemical barriers. Physical (zinc and titanium) on top of skin care moistures and such and can be applied on top of makeup. It’s a physical barrier working immediately. Chemical barriers under your Skin products and makeup and I read it can take 20 min to absorb and work. Chemicals need to absorb onto clean skin to be the most effective. I know zinc leaves a bit of whiteness but there are some great new products with smaller zinc particles that work wonderfully. Zinc is good for sensitive skin and won’t clog pores. And because I have dry skin on
    My face I don’t buy expensive cosmetic sunscreens like MD. I use equate baby zinc 50 ($4) or Neutogenia face sheer zinc dry touch 50 ($10-13).

    • TJ

      Thanks for that info Lisa!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How interesting! Thanks a ton for the helpful comment, Lisa! Good to know!

  12. Frecklelily

    Is there an expiration date on sunscreen? I have several bottles that are at least 2 years old.

    • Jenni

      It’s usually printed on the bottle (which can rub off if you get sunscreen on it lol) or stamped into the plastic crimp at the end of the tube… 2 years is the longest I’ve ever seen for an expiration.

  13. ~jenn~

    This was just on the Today show a couple weeks ago.

  14. chrissie

    I put a thick coat of babyganics on my toddler, thinking it was natural and had good spf…. Boy was I wrong! Within an hour both of my kids had serious sunburns!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh no! SO sorry to hear about that, Chrissie!

  15. P

    Has anyone used the dollar tree brand? Do you like it?

  16. Sunny

    Does anyone know if the Trader Joe’s one is natural too? I use babyganics bc I don’t want to put all the chemicals on my kids but didn’t know it worked so poorly!

  17. Mercedes

    I bought the Nuetrogena Sunscreen Sticks for my daughter .. At Target they’re originally 15.99 but they were on sale for 9.99 so I got two! You can find them anywhere but they’ll be expensive.

  18. Emily

    Think Baby is a great option that has a high EWG rating and works well. I’m extremely fair and have never had a burn using it. I also don’t feel bad putting it on my kids.

    • Janelle Lewis

      Yes! I believe it is the best out there so far. Love Thinkbaby and I don’t plan on switching any time soon!

  19. Solarsister

    Don’t forget that sunscreens can be paid for with your HSA/FSA card as long as they are SPF 30+. About 10 years ago my husband had to have the entire back of his upper left leg skin removed due to melanoma. I gladly pay the $40 for the Athelios for my red haired daughter, you simply can’t put a price on cancer prevention kids! Amazon now has a FSA only store and you can store your FSA debit card with them for payment, super easy!

    • Susan S.

      Thanks for that tip!!!

    • Lisa

      Great article! Explains the differences between the physical and chemical barriers well. I only use zinc sunscreens because in my opinion they are healthier option and lay on the surface of the skin… my dermatologist was the first to enlighten me on the differences.

      • Not Burning

        This article should mention the active ingredients in each product. It’s important. The chemical sunscreens approved for use by the FDA are pretty terrible. I did some pretty serious research and personal testing last summer. Turns out the chemical sunscreen oxybenzone was triggering my skin to erupt in rosacea and was doing way more harm than good. It heats up the skin as it absorbs UV radiation, and that heat can cause skin damage. Oxybenzone is banned in most other first world countries. Now I order my inexpensive, effective, reef-safe, cosmetically elegant physical sunscreen from South Korea. Be an informed consumer.

  20. Kitty

    Went to Trader Joe’s today so picked up this sunscreen 🙂

  21. Alyssa Barnes

    I’m shocked about the babyganics! I honestly didn’t really care for it though…
    My favorite is Mary Kay spf 50. I use it on myself and my kids and NO sunburns!

  22. Elleem

    We’ve used that exact babyganics tube for years and on my very sensitive-skinned children with no issues or burns whatsoever…

    • Hunterwoody

      Same here!! I swear by it with two ginger kids.

  23. Ruby

    I avoid sunscreen with Oxybenzone. It does cost more for sunscreen with less harmful chemicals but when you and your kids are using it as often as multiple times daily during the summer, it is worth it. It is also safe enough that I use it on both mine and my kids faces.

  24. scamp

    Thanks for this post. Great informaion.

  25. Jennifer

    My kids have a bit of an allergy to sunscreen and also excema. We only use blue lizard with good results.

  26. kerRI

    RAW ELEMENTS. Natural sunscreen. The absolute best. It works incredibly well. They just installed sunscreen dispensers at RI beaches and this is the sunscreen they use. I might sound like an infomercial but it is the healthiest sunscreen with no harmful chemicals

  27. Tracey

    We were in Hawaii recently and although the reef safe sunscreen restriction is not in force yet, we bought some as we wanted to do what we could to protect the ocean when snorkeling. Anyway, we bought ThinkSport which was pretty thick but worked really well; no sunburn! My son uses Cotz on his tattoo’s and swears by that. He is a lifeguard now and is at the beach a lot.
    Thanks for posting the list!

  28. Dee

    Wondering how the Alba botanica suncreens scored…

  29. Bianca

    We used the babyganics today and my daughter got burned. Will definitely be switching. Thanks for this article! Have you done one on bug spray? I would be really interested to read that!

    • Lucy

      Agree with this bug spray suggestion, especially for kids!

  30. shop4mybabies

    banana boat smells so gross and chemically out of the spray bottles which is our preferred application method. even hours after putting it on,the smell overwhelms me. i like coppertone babies even for the big kids. we are casper white red heads and need superior protection for sure

  31. Ckuchera

    Yep we have really liked the Banana boat SunComfort here…but it has been hard to find in our local stores

  32. Liz

    We use Badger and Bare Republic b/c it’s just zinc oxide and titanium dioxide…we try to stay away from the benzones…

  33. Trish

    Youtube Dr Dray no nonsense dermatologist.

    • Lisa

      Love her! Wealth of info.

  34. Beth

    Please remember that misting sprays and all those containing oxybenzone and octinoxate are killing coral reefs. Stick to zinc mineral based products. Not to mention that oxybenzone and octinoxate absorb through your skin if you are concerned about adding chemicals to your body.

  35. Melissa

    I don’t understand how Babyganics scores as one of the best on the EWG list but one of the worst on the CR list?

    • Jen

      From my understanding EWG is not as pure a website/list as it used to be. Companies can pay their way into the list, which is why it’s not a great reference. It’s very confusing finding something. Babyganics makes me crazy with how falsely they advertise being a “safe” sunscreen and they aren’t. There are definitely better options out there if you’re looking for a mineral based one!

      • Melissa

        What makes Babyganics unsafe? I find it all very confusing too and it’s difficult to know where to go to get unbiased, accurate info/ratings.

  36. Workaholic

    My favorite has been “Neutrogena Age Shield Face Lotion, SPF 110, Oil-Free & Non-Spectrum” for $7.99 on Amazon. I use it daily, before applying makeup, and I haven’t broken out. Unfortunately, Anthelios Ultra Light ($30) did not work for me because it causes my skin to break out.

  37. Julie

    Just an FYI, my Costco is carrying the La Roche Anthelios 60. It’s 5 oz for $37.99, but the package also contains a 1.7 oz bottle of Anthelios Clear Skin. SPF 60. It says set touch sunscreen on the package.

  38. Justine

    Good to know! Thank you.

  39. Sondra

    Some chemical ingredients in sunscreens are actually cancer causing! The key to remember is that there really are only two known safe sunscreen ingredients — zinc oxide and titanium dioxide — and they must NOT be nano-sized.
    I only buy sunscreen from shop.mercola.com. (He also sells safe bug repellent.) Check out this article (FDA admits most sunscreens are probably unsafe) https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2019/03/13/sunscreen-safety-regulations.aspx

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