With the growing prevalence of skin cancer, people are advised to use sunscreens to protect their skin from the damaging rays of the sun particularly when they go outdoors and during summer.

Many consumers, however, are buying sunscreen products that fall short of recommended guidelines set by skin experts.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) said that sunscreens should be water resistant, have a sun protection (SPF) factor of at least 30 and should provide broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays so they can effectively protect the skin from premature aging, wrinkles, age spots and sunburn.

Findings of a new study though have revealed that almost 40 percent of the most sellable sunscreens online fall short of the criteria set by the AAD.

The research, which was published in JAMA Dermatology on July 6, found that popular products from well- known brands such as Eucerin and Neutrogena do not meet dermatologists' recommendations primarily because of their lack of water resistance.

To have a better idea of what consumers look for when they buy sunscreens, Steve Xu, from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, and colleagues looked at the top 1 percent of the best-rated sunscreens on Amazon.com, where about 9 percent of sunscreen sales in the U.S. is believed to happen.

The researchers found that 40 percent or 26 of the 65 top-rated sunscreens failed to meet the AAD safety standards.

About 90 percent of the sunscreens claimed to have at least 30 SPF, and about the same number of products were broad spectrum. Unfortunately, only 62 percent of these products claimed to be water resistant.

"In this cohort of highly rated sunscreen products, a significant proportion did not adhere to AAD guidelines, mostly attributable to a lack of water resistance," the researchers wrote in their study.

The researchers likewise found that cosmetic elegance, which involves the color, scent and feeling associated with the product, is the main factor that consumers consider when leaving a positive review. This is followed by product performance.

Xu and colleagues said that dermatologists need to educate their patients about sunscreen.

"Dermatologists should balance the importance of cosmetic elegance, cost, and AAD guidelines for sun protection in making their recommendations to consumers."

Using sunscreen is recommended to get protection from the harmful rays of the sun that can cause sunburn, premature aging and even skin cancer. Experts also recommend staying in the shade and using protective clothing.

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