The best cheap sunscreens for your money in 2019

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Consumer Reports is out with its latest ranking of cheap sunscreen — because you don’t have to pay big bucks to protect your skin from harsh UV rays. Once again this year, Equate sunscreen is one of the top picks. And you won’t believe how cheap it is!

Walmart’s Equate sunscreen tops the Consumer Reports list again

Want the best sunscreen for your money? Check out these options…


Equate Ultra Lotion SPF 50 sunscreen

walmart equate sunscreen

This Walmart store brand lotion is a ‘best buy’ recommendation from Consumer Reports with a score of 94 out of 100.

It costs only 44 cents an ounce — the cheapest unit price of any lotion tested!

Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (13%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (7%) and Oxybenzone (4%).

Also scoring well in the lotion category was this favorite:

Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 70

coppertone ultra guard

Not a fan of Walmart? Coppertone Ultra Guard Lotion also scored a 94 out of 100, at a cost of $1 an ounce.

Yet we should note that the Coppertone has the exact same active ingredient composition — in nearly identical ratios — as the Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50!


Why would you pay more than twice as much for the name brand when you can get nearly the same formulation in a store brand?

Meanwhile, at the other extreme…

If you balked at the higher price of the Coppertone offering we just mentioned, it’s nothing compared to La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios 60 Melt-in Sunscreen Milk. We’re talking $7.20 per ounce on this one!!

In its defense, La Roche-Posay was the only brand to score a perfect 100 on the Consumer Reports test. But who can stomach that price?

Moreover, the La Roche-Posay had an active ingredient composition remarkably similar to the cheaper competition: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10.72%), Octisalate (3.21%), Octocrylene (6%) and Oxybenzone (3.86%).

Again, why pay way more for basically the same stuff?!?


Trader Joe’s Spray SPF 50+

When it comes to sprays, this Trader Joe’s offering scored a perfect 100 on the Consumer Reports annual tally!

At $1 an ounce, it might be worth a look. Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (15%), Octisalate (5%) and Oxybenzone (6%).

Yet there was a cheaper recommended option you may want to consider…

Up & Up (Target) Sport Spray SPF 30

target sunscreen


At 67 cents an ounce, this Target store brand scored a 76 and was the cheapest spray tested.

Active ingredients include Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (2%) and Oxybenzone (4%).

Final thought

Clearly, it’s possible to get all the protection from the sun’s harmful rays you need and not break the bank.

Just be sure that whatever sunscreen you get says “Broad Spectrum” on the label for maximum protection. That will ensure that it protects against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.

Consumer Reports says UVB is the biggest culprit when it comes to sunburn and it also plays a role in skin cancer. UVA, meanwhile, is responsible for tanning and aging skin, in addition to contributing to skin cancer.

You also want to see the words “SPF 30” (or higher) and “Water Resistant” on the label of whatever you sunscreen you get.

Any other terms are practically meaningless — because the definition can change from manufacturer to manufacturer. So as a general rule, you should avoid things that say:

  • Sport
  • Dermatologist Recommended
  • Natural
  • Mineral Based
  • Reef Safe

That last descriptor made the news recently when Hawaii announced it would ban the sale of sunscreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate beginning in 2021. Both are chemical sunscreen ingredients believed to threaten coral reefs.

If you want an ecologically safe alternative that’s cheap too, Consumer Reports says you might consider the following:

  • Clothing that’s UPF-rated for ultraviolet protection
  • Sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
  • Chemical-based sunscreen that doesn’t contain oxybenzone

Do you have a favorite budget sunscreen or tips for staying safe in the sun? Let us know in the comments below!

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