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27 April 2021

Media release: Consumer NZ lodges complaint about SPF claims for seven sunscreens

Consumer NZ has requested the Commerce Commission investigate sun protection claims for seven sunscreens. The products failed to meet their SPF claims and three also failed to meet their broad-spectrum claims in Consumer NZ’s tests.

The seven products include Johnson & Johnson’s Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion Sunscreen SPF50. In 2017, Johnson & Johnson New Zealand signed court enforceable undertakings with the commission that products sold in New Zealand would meet the voluntary sunscreen standard. Consumer NZ alleges Johnson & Johnson has failed to fulfil this obligation.

Consumer NZ’s testing of Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion Sunscreen SPF50 found it failed to meet its SPF claim. The sunscreen was tested at two different laboratories.

“New Zealanders should be able to trust the sun protection claims on the sunscreens they buy, which is why we are holding these seven sunscreen companies to account. We believe consumers are being misled that these sunscreens provide higher protection than they do,” Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.

“There needs to be a mandatory standard for sunscreens. The Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard is voluntary, and manufacturers don’t have to regularly test their products. Given the number of failures we’ve seen, it’s clear they should be required to do so.”

Consumer NZ asked the seven companies for the evidence they were using to back up their SPF claims. Three relied on test reports from US lab AMA Laboratories: Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+ , Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30  and Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30.

In 2019, the owner of AMA Laboratories was arrested on fraud charges for reporting false test results from 1987 to April 2017. 

These charges were made by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and Food and Drug Administration. The owner is defending the charges. However, four AMA staff members, including its technical director and clinical laboratory director, have pleaded guilty.

Consumer NZ considers companies that continue to rely on test results from AMA Laboratories do not have adequate grounds to substantiate their claims, which could amount to a breach of the Fair Trading Act.  

The seven products that failed to meet their claims were:

Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+  SPF in our test: 40.4 

Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+  SPF in our test: 30.4  Broad spectrum requirements: failed  The distributor advised it would relabel this product as SPF30.

Hamilton Active Family Sunscreen SPF50+  SPF in our test: 50 

Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+  SPF in our test: 42.7  Broad spectrum requirements: failed  The company said it would retest this product.

Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30  SPF in our test: 22.5 

Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion Sunscreen SPF50  SPF in our test: 36.5  Broad spectrum requirements: failed 

Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30  SPF in our test: 20.2 

About Consumer NZ’s test

In 2020, Consumer NZ commissioned testing of the SPF and broad-spectrum protection of 12 sunscreens. Testing was conducted by Institute Dr. Schrader, an accredited laboratory in Germany, following the methods in the Australian and New Zealand standard AS/NZS 2604:2012. Samples were sent “blind” to the lab and packed according to its instructions.  

Read the full sunscreen report here.

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