Sunscreens test shows products not meeting claims

Sunscreens test shows products not meeting claims

Consumer NZ’s latest test of sunscreens found products not meeting label claims.

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Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said six out of 10 products tested didn’t provide the sun protection claimed.

One product – Coola Classic Body Sunscreen Plumeria SPF30 – only gave low protection of SPF6 in Consumer NZ’s test, despite claiming high protection of SPF30.

The other five products were labelled as SPF50 or SPF50+, but Consumer NZ’s test found they did not meet these claims, returning SPFs from 16 to 42.

“While these SPF ratings mean the sunscreens still provide moderate or high protection, our testing found they don’t provide the protection claimed on the label,” Ms Chetwin said.

Ms Chetwin said four of the companies, including Coola, provided lab reports showing their products had been tested and met their label claims. However, two reports dated from 2015 and Coola’s report was from 2013. In response to Consumer NZ’s findings, Coola is commissioning a review of its formula.

“There’s no requirement for sunscreen manufacturers to regularly test. But that’s what they should be doing to ensure their products continue to provide the protection claimed,” she said.

In its 2017 round of testing, Consumer NZ found only nine of 20 sunscreens met their SPF label claims and requirements for broad-spectrum protection.

Ms Chetwin said the lack of a mandatory standard meant sunscreens could be sold without undergoing any testing. “New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world but the sunscreen standard remains voluntary.”

The Ministry of Health is working on legislation to regulate therapeutic products but no decision has been made on whether it will include sunscreens. “This legislation provides an opportunity to finally make the sunscreen standard mandatory and ensure no sunscreen is sold unless it’s been properly tested,” Ms Chetwin said.

Consumer NZ’s campaign for a mandatory standard is supported by the New Zealand Dermatological Society and Skin Cancer College Australasia.

Consumer NZ is testing 10 more sunscreens and results will be online as soon as they are available. For the first batch of results, see the full sunscreens report.

Sun safety tips

  • Look for sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30+, plus water resistance and broad-spectrum protection.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Apply plenty – about one teaspoonful (5ml) for each arm, each leg, your back, your front and your face (which includes your neck and ears). That adds up to about 35ml for a full-body application.
  • Ignore “once-a-day” claims. Sunscreen should be reapplied often – every two hours you’re outside.
  • Mopping up sweat or towelling dry reduces protection: apply another coat of sunscreen immediately.

A sunscreen is only one part of your defence. Cover up with suitable clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. When the sun’s rays are most intense (between 10am and 4pm September to April or when the UV index is greater than three), it’s also a good idea to limit your time in the sun.

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