The Best Cheap Sunscreens for Your Money in 2021

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Summer is just around the corner, and with it, plenty of outdoor time. To keep yourself protected, you need sunscreen. But you don’t need to shell out big bucks. You want the best cheap sunscreen you can get.

I took a close look at the latest rankings from Consumer Reports to come up with the best inexpensive sunscreens of 2021.

Best Cheap Sunscreen Lotions

The first sunscreen lotion, designed to protect from the sun’s rays, was invented in the late 1930s. Now there are hundreds of sunscreen lotions on the market.

Lotion is generally the least expensive sunscreen you can buy. Advantages: You can see where you’re applying it, and it doesn’t pose the threat of getting inhaled during application (important with children). (The FDA states that regardless of age sunscreen sprays should never be applied directly to your face.)

I took a close look at Consumer Reports’ ratings of sunscreen lotion quality and their prices. The table below lists what I found to be the three best cheap sunscreen lotions of 2021. I considered both first- and second- tier lotions in terms of quality but chose only those that cost less than $1 per ounce.

LotionsPrice per Fluid OunceConsumer Report 2021 Ranking (Out of 100)
Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50$0.5068
Coppertone Limited Edition Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 30$0.9954
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Lotion SPF 50+$0.9952

Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50

With a 68 out of 100 score in the magazine’s rankings and $4 price, the Equate (Walmart) Sport Lotion SPF 50 is both the top rated and most affordable lotion for 2021. This lotion costs just $0.50 per fluid ounce.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (13%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (5%), Oxybenzone (6%)

Coppertone Limited Edition Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 30

Consumer Reports’ second tier of lotions in terms of quality earned scores between 50 and 55. This Coppertone lotion ranked third in that group, scoring a 54. But it’s more than $4 cheaper per ounce than the two products that scored a 55!

Coppertone Limited Edition Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 30 costs under $1 per fluid ounce.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (10%)

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Banana Boat Ultra Sport Lotion SPF 50+

Consumer Reports rated the Banana Boat Ultra Sport Lotion SPF 50+ seventh on its lotions list for 2021 with a score of 52. It’s not far behind the Coppertone Limited Ultra Guard Lotion SPF 30 in quality and is just as affordable at 99 cents per ounce.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octocrylene (6%)

Best Cheap Sunscreen Sprays

Sunscreen spray generally costs more than lotion but is viewed to be more convenient, because your hands don’t get greasy when you apply it.

But note that Consumer Reports says the proper way to apply sunscreen spray is to rub it in after spraying it on the skin — even if the label on the bottle says “no rub.”

SpraysPrice per Fluid OunceConsumer Report 2021 Ranking (Out of 100)
Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Spray SPF 30$1.3275
Alba Botanic Hawaiian Sunscreen Clear Spray SPF 50$1.5872
Banana Boat Ultra Sport Spray SPF 100$1.5063

Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Spray SPF 30

There is no better choice for sunscreen spray, according to Consumer Reports, than Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Spray SPF 30. It scored a 75 out of 100 in the magazine’s 2021 ratings. It is also the cheapest of the top-rated sprays at $1.32 per ounce.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (2%), Homosalate (7%), Octocrylene (5%)

Alba Botanic Hawaiian Sunscreen Clear Spray SPF 50

With a 72 out of 100 score from Consumer Reports, Alba Botanic Hawaiian Sunscreen Clear Spray SPF 50 is rated similar in quality to the top-rated spray. Alba costs 26 cents more per fluid ounce than the top-rated spray, but that’s still only 8 cents more per ounce than the final spray that made our list.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (15%), Octocrylene (8%), Octyl Salicylate (5%)

Banana Boat Ultra Sport Spray SPF 100

With a score of 63 out of 100 from Consumer Reports, Banana Boat is a tier behind the top choices of sunscreen spray for 2021, but it offers an alternative at a good price. You can purchase Banana Boat Ultra Sport Spray for $1.50 per fluid ounce.

Active ingredients: Avobenzone (3%), Homosalate (10%), Octisalate (5%), Octocrylene (10%), Oxybenzone 6%

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To view a full list of Consumer Reports’ rankings, you can visit Consumer Reports online and purchase a digital subscription for $10/month or $39/year.

How Much Can You Save With the Best Cheap Sunscreens?

It’s up to you to decide whether you prefer sunscreen lotions or sprays, but you can spend a lot – or a little – to buy either one.

The lotions that scored a 60 or better on Consumer Reports’ list range in price from $0.50 to $6.40 per fluid ounce, and its top choice was also the least expensive!

Sprays are more expensive overall, but the price per fluid ounce in that category has a huge range as well: $1.32 to $5 per fluid ounce for the sprays that scored 60 or higher.

So it’s clear you can cut your sunscreen costs in half — or more — if you shop around for the best cheap brands.

Methodology

I evaluated the Consumer Reports rankings and compared prices to find the best cheap sunscreens.

After analyzing the prices of all the lotions and sprays with a score above 50 from Consumer Reports, I selected the three cheapest in each category. The magazine uses a 100-point scale, but the very highest rating it gave any of the products (a spray) was a 75. The highest-rated lotion earned a 68 rating.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to get quality protection from the sun for an affordable price.

To get the best protection possible, make sure that any sunscreen you buy says “Broad Spectrum” on the label. That will protect you from both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. According to the American Cancer Society, UVB rays cause sunburn while UVA rays can produce long-term skin damage. Overexposure to the sun increases your risk for skin cancer.

You also want any sunscreen you buy to have a sun protection factor (“SPF”) of at least 30, the recommended minimum from The Skin Cancer Foundation. If applied correctly, SPF 30 sunscreen is supposed to protect your skin 30 times longer than wearing no sunscreen at all.

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Also look for a sunscreen that’s water-resistant so you will still have protection while swimming. But reapplying sunscreen after a few hours is always a good idea.

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