Why sunscreens should be regulated

Hot from the lab: our latest sunscreen test results.

sunscreen products

Seven sunscreens in our latest test didn’t provide their claimed SPF protection, including products marketed as “natural”. Three of the seven sunscreens also failed to meet their broad-spectrum claims.

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Slopping on sunscreen can help protect you from the harsh summer sun. The sun exposes you to two types of UV rays – UVA and UVB. UVA penetrates deeply into the skin and can cause wrinkles and age spots. UVB causes skin reddening and is the main cause of sunburn. Both rays can cause skin cancer.

In our latest round of testing, we checked 12 sunscreens to assess whether they met their SPF (sun protection factor) and broad-spectrum protection claims.

Test results

Met their claims:

Seven of the 12 sunscreens we tested met their SPF label claim and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection:

  • Cancer Society Everyday SPF50+
  • Cetaphil Sun Kids Liposomal Lotion SPF50+
  • Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen SPF50+
  • Skinnies Conquer with Manuka Oil Sports Sunscreen SPF50+
  • Nivea Sun Sensitive Protect SPF50

Failed to meet claims:

  • Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+
  • Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+
  • Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30
  • Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30
  • Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+
  • Hamilton Active Family Sunscreen SPF50+
  • Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion Sunscreen SPF50

See the full test results.

What the companies told us

Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30 and Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30 only provided moderate protection, not the high protection claimed.

When we asked the companies for evidence to back their label claims, Natural Instinct provided a lab report that concluded it was “highly unlikely” the formula would not meet an SPF30 label claim.

This conclusion was based on a 2012 test by US lab AMA (see “AMA Labs’ false test results”). The test was of a formula with the same percentage of zinc oxide (the active ingredient) as the sunscreen we tested but wasn’t the same product. In 2015, an additional test was done (also by AMA) of a product with a similar base. However, the test only involved three people, not the 10 required by the sunscreen standard.

Sukin provided a report that concluded its product “should comply” with the sunscreen standard. This was based on a 2011 AMA 20-person test of a formula with the same level of zinc oxide. The product we tested had a different preservative. Sukin advised the sunscreen was sent for retesting earlier this year and said the product meets the SPF label claim. Test results have not been provided to us.

Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ got a result of 40.4 (high protection) in our test. Its distributor provided us with 10-person test results. However, the results were from an unidentified lab and didn’t have the test date. When we asked for this information, the company declined to provide it.

Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+ and Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+ also didn’t meet the very high protection claims on their labels. In addition, both products failed to meet the requirements for making a broad-spectrum claim.

This is the second time Le Tan hasn’t met its label claim in our testing. When we tested the sunscreen in 2018, it got an SPF of 44 (this time it was 42.7).

In response to this year’s results, the distributors of Le Tan provided a 10-person test report from Australian lab Eurofins Dermatest. However, the results were from a batch tested over 2013 and 2014. Based on our results, the company said it would retest the product.

Ecosol managed an SPF result of 30.4 in our test. The company provided us with a 10-person test report. However, it was from 2015 and had been conducted at AMA. The New Zealand distributor advised us it would relabel the product as SPF30.

Hamilton Active Family Sunscreen SPF50+ returned an SPF of 50. This is below the SPF60 required to make a 50+ claim. We tested another bottle of this sunscreen at a second lab, where it also failed to meet its label claim. The sunscreen provides high protection but not the SPF50+ claimed.

Key Pharmaceuticals, which owns the Hamilton brand, provided us with 2018 test results from a US lab to support its SPF50+ claim. The company said it had “no reason to doubt the integrity” of the results.

Neutrogena Beach Defence Water + Sun Barrier Lotion Sunscreen SPF50 returned an SPF of 36.5. It also failed to meet the requirements needed to make a broad-spectrum claim.

We tested another bottle of this sunscreen at a second lab, which also found it failed to meet its SPF50 claim. Of the 20 people this product was tested on across both labs, the SPF rating was below 50 in 17 cases.

Johnson & Johnson Pacific, which markets Neutrogena, said its sunscreens complied with the Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard. The company provided 2012 test reports to support its SPF and broad-spectrum claims.

The company questioned our decision to send products to the labs “blind” – that is, decanted into unbranded containers. We stand by our decision and don’t believe our process raises any valid concerns.

It’s not the first time Neutrogena sunscreens have failed to meet SPF claims in our tests. We’ve previously lodged a complaint with the Commerce Commission as a result of our findings.

In December 2017, Johnson & Johnson New Zealand signed court-enforceable undertakings with the commission, agreeing that its sunscreens sold here would meet the standard. In September 2016, the commission told the company to stop supplying its Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SPF60+ after testing found the product didn’t meet its SPF claim. Our testing also found this sunscreen failed to provide the claimed protection. Johnson & Johnson said it decided to discontinue the product in April 2016 for independent commercial reasons.

AMA Labs’ false test results

The owner of US lab AMA Laboratories has pleaded guilty to falsifying test results. A statement issued on 4 May 2021 by the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York said AMA owner Gabriel Letizia Jr had “schemed for decades to defraud customers”.

From 1987 to April 2017, Letizia and senior staff defrauded customers of more than $63 million ($US46m). Letizia is facing up to seven years in prison. Four former AMA employees have previously pleaded guilty in connection with the fraud.

In June 2020, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (the government agency that regulates sunscreens in Australia) stated sunscreen companies are required to provide adequate justification for their products that have been tested by AMA. The administration said it will contact affected companies to request this information.

Why we need a mandatory standard

Sunscreen manufacturers don’t have to regularly test their products but we think they should to ensure different batches meet label claims. We don’t think it’s acceptable to rely on test results that, in some cases, are more than five years old.

We get similar results every year:

  • Last year, only 11 (out of 20) sunscreens in our test met their SPF label claims.
  • Three failed the requirements for broad spectrum protection.
  • In 2018, only three (out of 19), met both requirements.
  • In 2017, only nine (out of 20) managed this.

We’ve been campaigning for a mandatory sunscreen standard for many years. In a country with one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world, it’s not good enough sunscreens aren’t regulated.

Last year, we made a submission to the Ministry of Health on the Therapeutic Products Regulatory Scheme. We strongly supported sunscreens being required to comply with the Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard.

The sunscreen standard is mandatory in Australia but voluntary here (where sunscreens are classified as cosmetics). This means products sold in our market could meet other standards, such as those in the US or EU, or may not have been tested at all.

We also asked for regulations to specify how often sunscreens must be tested and requirements for test labs. In addition, monitoring and independent testing of sunscreens must be done to ensure label claims are truthful.

Sun safety tips

  • Look for sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or above, plus water resistance and broad-spectrum protection.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Apply plenty – about two teaspoons for each leg, and one teaspoonful for each arm, your back, your front and your face (which includes your neck and ears). That adds up to about 45ml 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.

Remember, a sunscreen is only one part of your defence against UV radiation. You should also cover up with suitable clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses, and seek shade . When the sun’s rays are most intense (between 10am and 4pm September to April or when the ultraviolet index (UVI) is greater than three), limit your time outside.

Frequently asked questions

What difference does the SPF make?

"SPF" stands for "sun protection factor". It's a measure of protection against mainly UVB rays, the ones that cause sunburn. The higher the SPF number, the greater the protection - up to 50+.

Above SPF 50+ the additional protection is very small. In fact, high SPF values are a problem. Studies have shown that people use them to stay out longer in the sun, using sunburn as a warning to take cover. During this time you can receive large doses of UVA radiation.

The Australian/New Zealand standard limits SPF claims to 50+ in line with other international standards.

For more information, see “What do the SPF numbers mean?”

What do the SPF numbers mean?

An SPF15 sunscreen that's properly applied is meant to give you 15 times the protection you'd get with unprotected skin. So if you were outside in the sort of sun that burns unprotected skin in 10 minutes, then SPF15 would give you 150 minutes of protection. For SPF30 sunscreen, that time would extend out to 300 minutes and for SPF50 it would be 500 minutes (see our Graph).

That’s the theory. These times will vary from person to person because of skin type, activities (such as heavy exercise or swimming) and how well the sunscreen is applied. No matter how high the SPF, any sunscreen should be reapplied regularly – every two hours you’re in the sun.

No sunscreen blocks 100 percent of UV rays: SPF15 blocks 93 percent of UVB, SPF30 blocks 97 percent, and SPF50 blocks 98 percent.

What does "broad spectrum" mean?

Broad spectrum sunscreens protect against UVA and UVB radiation. Both contribute to premature skin ageing, damage to the immune system and skin cancer.

UVA radiation penetrates deep into the skin layer; it's dangerous because there's no immediate warning sign (such as the sunburn caused by UVB rays).

Will the sunscreen protect me all day?

No - sunscreen can be sweated, washed or rubbed off, the chemicals may break down over time, and people simply don't apply enough (see "Sun safety tips" above). You should reapply sunscreen every 2 hours.

Does having a tan mean you don't need as much sunscreen?

No. A tan is a sign that skin damage has already started. Any further UV radiation will only add to the damage, resulting in wrinkled leathery skin and possibly skin cancer later in life.

Do I need a special sunscreen for my child?

Proper protection from the sun is more important during childhood than at any other time in life. Childhood and teenage sunburn is a high-risk factor for developing melanoma.

Sunscreens that are specially formulated for children have a mild base designed especially for their sensitive skin. But there's no reason why children shouldn't use the family sunscreen, provided it doesn't irritate their skin. Test a small amount on the inside of their forearm first.

According to Professor Marius Rademaker, from the Dermatology Unit at the Waikato District Health Board, you don’t need a special sunscreen for kids. He told us there was little evidence to suggest there was a safety issue with using the active ingredients of adult sunscreens on children.

Professor Rademaker told us it was important to remember that sunscreens were just one component of keeping safe in the sun. “As well as wearing sunscreen, children should wear protective clothing and sunglasses, and parents should plan outdoor activities for early in the morning or later in the afternoon.”

Keep babies and toddlers out of the sun as much as possible. The best protection for them is staying in the shade and using cover-up clothing - as it is for everybody.

What about irritation?

Certain ingredients in sunscreens can irritate some people. This may be due to sensitive skin or a reaction to one of the ingredients (a chemical, preservative or fragrance).

The active ingredients in sunscreens must be listed on the label. However, unlike other cosmetics, sunscreens are exempt from having to list all ingredients if they comply with the Australian requirements.

You can check the active ingredients and preservatives of our tested sunscreen here.

What are the active ingredients?

Sunscreen active ingredients can be divided into two groups – physical blockers and chemical absorbers.

Physical blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) work by reflecting or scattering UV radiation and are effective at protecting against both UVA and UVB radiation. A downside is they leave white marks on the skin, although some products now use nanoparticles – tiny molecules with one or more dimension less than 100 nanometres (nm) – which makes the sunscreen transparent.

Chemical absorbers (such as octinoxate or oxybenzone) work by absorbing UV radiation and can be further differentiated by the type of radiation they absorb – UVA or UVB. These sunscreens often have a combination of ingredients to protect against UVA and UVB.

Some people choose to avoid sunscreens with chemical absorbers because of potential health risks. In 2019, a study by US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researchers found four chemicals (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene and ecamsule) may be absorbed through the skin at levels higher than previously believed.

In January 2020, a follow-up study by the same researchers on six sunscreen ingredients (avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, homosalate, octisalate and octinoxate), backed up these findings.

The FDA has asked the sunscreen industry to provide additional safety information on 12 chemical sunscreen ingredients to validate their safety and effectiveness.

The European Commission is also investigating whether some sunscreen chemicals have endocrine-disrupting properties. Last year, the commission asked for scientific data on 14 chemicals including homosalate and octocrylene.

Some ingredients, in particular oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3) and octinoxate (aka octyl methoxycinnamate) are also emerging as an environmental concern, especially in beach regions where they get washed off.

Due to the evidence showing these ingredients adversely affect marine life, the New Zealand Dermatological Society recommends using sunscreens without them. From 2021, sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate will be banned in Hawaii, except on prescription. The Republic of Palau has also banned these ingredients, as well as additional sunscreen chemicals.

To choose sunscreens without these chemicals, check the packaging – all active ingredients in sunscreens must be listed.

Are nanoparticles safe?

There is debate about the safety of nanoparticles and whether they can penetrate the outer layer of skin (which has been shown in lab studies) and damage living cells.

In 2017, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration concluded the majority of studies found nanoparticles didn’t penetrate “or minimally penetrated” the skin, suggesting “systemic absorption, hence toxicity, is highly unlikely”.

The European Commission (EC) concluded available evidence suggests zinc oxide and titanium dioxide nanoparticles can be considered safe for use on the skin as sunscreens up to a concentration of 25 percent. This does not apply to sprayable products, which might be inhaled.

With cosmetic products, which include sunscreens, nanoparticle ingredients are required to be labelled. The word “nano” must appear in brackets after the ingredient. However, if a sunscreen complies with Australian regulations, this isn’t required and products don’t need to declare the ingredients’ particle size.

Member comments

Get access to comment

Vere G.
13 May 2021
AMA and sunscreens

How many people have died of melanoma because of these fraudulent tests?
How many millions of dollars have we spent on treating these melanoma cases?
And much more significantly, how much suffering could have been alleviated?
Peter Miller

Steve B.
20 Mar 2021
All about profit

New Zealand generaly adopts Australian measures with the exception of when matters eat into profits.
It is understandable that a National Government will side with profit makers but there is no excuse for a Labour government.
If New Zealand addopted Australian laws for both sun screen and food labeling we wouldnt even be debating this now.
The profit makers have blocked Australian food labeling for about 50 years and it must be close to that for sun screen.
Maybe emigration is the answer.

Sue J.
13 May 2021
Good idea, Steve B!

I think emigrating for you is a great idea!
It’ll raise the IQ of both countries.
This is nothing to do with NZ political parties. It’s about a fraudulent American company.

Mike & Erena B.
26 Dec 2020
Expensive protection

Why are sunscreens so expensive in new Zealand compared to Australia and why are larger (1 liter) containers so hard to find? When NZ has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world it make no sense for sunscreens to be in a price bracket that makes them too expensive for many people to afford. The cost of medical treatment and lost income would surely make sense for the government to remove the tax on sunscreens (Stuff published an interesting article on this in 2018). Has Consumer consulted the Ministry of Health on the issue of not just regulation of quality but price?

Cushla M.
17 Dec 2020
Spray on sunscreens

I have just read the Guardian article about Australia advice against using spray on sunscreen. Have you tested these formulations here as well?


Consumer staff
21 Dec 2020
Re: Spray on sunscreens

Hi Cushla,

We didn’t test any aerosol sunscreens and don’t recommend them. Aerosols are quick and easy to apply. But most people don’t apply enough – giving a light spray instead of using the recommended 9 teaspoons for an average-sized adult. Aerosols are also an expensive option. The Australian consumer organisation Choice estimates only about 40 percent of an aerosol can is sunscreen. The rest of the can is made up of propellants. Aerosols are also tricky to use on kids – they are more at risk of accidentally inhaling aerosol sunscreens so the sunscreen should be sprayed on your hands first and then applied. This also helps ensure you get an even layer of coverage and don’t miss any areas.

Kind regards,
Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Becks C.
17 Dec 2020
Countdown have recently brought in an affordable Ausssie sunscreen under the Woolworths label

Can you test the new Woolworths sunscreen which is new 2020 .
Countdown have recently brought in an Australian made SPF50 .. under the Woolworths brand is listed at SPF50 ...
Any chance you can test this ... as it is resonably priced for a 1 litre pump bottle https://shop.countdown.co.nz/shop/productdetails?stockcode=742305&name=woolworths-sunblock-spf-50 ..

I do know that sunscreen in Australia is availble more affordably than in NZ. but not sure if are tested to the same standards Counsumer has used .

Frank - Consumer staff
12 Jan 2021
Re: Countdown have recently brought in an affordable Ausssie sunscreen under the Woolworths label

Hi Becks,

Unfortunately, the Woolworths sunscreen was not being sold when we did our testing. We’ll make sure we consider it in our next round of testing later this year.

Kind regards,
Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Becks C.
15 Dec 2020
the types up to specifications .. do you have batch numbers

i have previously had some cancer society in a year when it did not meet the specification.
swapped to smart365 which i can no longer find to purchase( was from the warehouse) .
Question: if I buy cancer society or any of the brands that now meet specs .. how do i know i am getting new stock .. rather than old(which did not meet spec) ....as often shelf life before opening is a couple of years ?

Can you provide .. is ok from batch number XXX > ... or expiry date

Frank - Consumer staff
16 Dec 2020
Re: the types up to specifications .. do you have batch numbers

Hi Becks,

The Cancer Society batch we tested was 1098035 (expiry August 2023). This packaging has the new circular logo on the front of pack stating “Supporting Kiwis affected by cancer, 100% of profits donated”. The Warehouse advised us it is reformulating Smart 365 and it’s currently unavailable. Hope that helps.

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Becks C.
16 Dec 2020
Can you test the new Woolworths sunscreen which is new 2020 .

Countdown have recently brought in an Australian made SPF50 .. under the Woolworths brand is listed at SPF50 ...
Any chance you can test this ... as it is resonably priced for a 1 litre pump bottle https://shop.countdown.co.nz/shop/productdetails?stockcode=742305&name=woolworths-sunblock-spf-50 ..

I do know that sunscreen in Australia is availble more affordably than in NZ. but not sure if are tested to the same standards Counsumer has used .

Gus G.
13 Dec 2020
Gus/Sunscreen test results

What happened to the top rated sunscreen for the past couple of years ?
It was called smart 365 Sun SPF 50+, and came highly recommended by Consumer, for which I am still using.
Please don't upset your members. It might have been more preferable to wait for ALL the results to come in?

So. What do now.

Frank - Consumer staff
16 Dec 2020
Re: Gus/Sunscreen test results

Hi Gus,

We haven’t tested Smart 365 this year. The Warehouse advised us it was reformulating this sunscreen and it’s currently not available. Here's what they told us: "We are developing a great new range of Smart 365 sunscreen for this summer - this is still in development stage and therefore final product testing has not been completed."

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff

Eva P.
12 Dec 2020
Please tell me I am wrong!

I have just read this article in the magazine, and found no mention at all of the serious damage certain sunscreens (especially those with nanoparticles) do to the marine environment.
Have I just missed it, or has that really not been mentioned?

The only mention I found was about direct effects on our individual health.
Killing off the marine ecosystem will be a lot worth for our health in the long run.

Mark H.
12 Dec 2020
Expensive advice

45 ml of sunscreen per person , wow many people cannot afford that and will think why bother ? Make sure the kids and vulnerable get the sunscreen and I will be okay or maybe we don’t really need to use that much?

12 Dec 2020
Good graphics

I like the way the results are summarised in two 5-product photos. Much easier to remember, than the long list of good and bad

Lana D.
07 Nov 2020
Kids sunblock

I would really like to see the bottles labeled for kids tested and compared against each other. I use the kids cancer society sunblock because its spf50 (I also buy it because I have 2 kids). Typically the stuff labeled for kids has a higher spf rating so it may be perceived as a safer option than the adults equivalent in the same brand.

Previous member
02 Dec 2019

So which brands did meet requirements?

Consumer staff
02 Dec 2019
Re: Sunscreens

Hi Andrea,

You can check out the products that met both their SPF label claim and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection on the "up to standard" section of our article: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/sunscreens/know-the-issue#article-up-to-standard

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Hamish W.
27 Nov 2019
Should you apply two coats?

This report says two coats of sunscreen are necessary. https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/well-good/teach-me/117708750/sunscreen-is-not-enough-to-protect-from-sunburn-in-new-zealand--researcher
"You put it on 15 or 20 minutes before you go outside and then just before you go outside, you put another layer on."
That's news to me!

Any comments from the team?

Consumer staff
29 Nov 2019
Re: Should you apply two coats?

Hi Hamish,

The Health Promotion Agency recommends the “two-coat” approach because it gives you a thicker, more protective layer of sunscreen. It also helps cover up areas you may have missed on the first application. This highlights the importance of making sure you apply sunscreen properly – using plenty on all areas that are uncovered.

Kind regards,

Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Sue S.
25 Nov 2019
The products that failed the broad spectrum requirements

Is there any more information on the three products that failed to meet requirements for broad-spectrum protection.

Consumer staff
26 Nov 2019
Re: The products that failed the broad spectrum requirements

Hi Sue,

You can read our full findings of the products that failed to meet broad spectrum claims in the table on the "test results" tab.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Bob Z.
25 Nov 2019
Water resistance and eye irritation

I am a keen windsurfer and have had two pre-cancerous growths removed from my face. My current sunscreen irritates my eyes when I fall in the water. Can you advise which sunscreens (a) are less of an irritant to eyes and (b) are more water resistant. By the way I also wear a strap-on hat to reduce sun exposure.

Consumer staff
25 Nov 2019
Re: Water resistance and eye irritation

Hi Bob,

Sunscreen ingredients can irritate some people. But as sunscreens contain multiple ingredients, such as chemicals, preservatives or fragrances, it’s difficult to determine what it causing the reaction. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test for this. We also didn’t test for water resistance.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Reid B.
23 Nov 2019
Two issues - (1) sunscreen effectiveness and (2) advertising honesty

Consumer deserves credit for investigating the sunscreen issue. But it needs to distinguish the two issues at stake.

Firstly, regarding effectiveness, we should not get our knickers in a knot about the magnitude of the SPF factor - it is only one indicator of sunscreen effectiveness, as Marita B so clearly explains. Other key factors are the thickness of the applied sunscreen layer, and how well the layer is maintained hour after hour. A good layer of sticky waterproof SPF 15 regularly applied could easily outperform a poorly applied and maintained and runny SPF50! Consumer's preoccupation with the SPF figures (to an astonishingly absurd resolution of 0.01!!) is misplaced and misleading.

For most people, the need is simply to substantially cut down on the UV dosage, starting with how long you are outside, especially in the middle of the day, whether you are in shade, and what clothing and hat you are wearing. Then where needed, applying a decent sunscreen properly. But as consumer states "No sunscreen blocks 100% of UV rays: SPF15 blocks 93% of UVB, SPF30 blocks 97%, and SPF50 blocks 98%." A blocking of 93% of the UV seems pretty good to me for day to day summer use (i.e. 7% remaining). After all, there are plenty of other times, at the ends of the day and in other seasons when we don't use sunscreen and our accumulated dosage will reach a similar level. You could argue that the best sunscreen is the cheapest one, since people are more likely to slap it on liberally and regularly. But if the SPF50 costs the same as the SPF15, then of course you should go for the SPF50.

Secondly, the question of the accuracy of the SPF claims is an entirely separate matter. I believe companies should be held to account for claims they make. If a product has an claimed SPF of 40, it should meet that standard (even though an SPF of 39 would in practice be not materially different to an SPF of 40.) Companies should also be able to demonstrate their basis for making such claims, and not pluck a number out of the air. We consumers need to trust that the claims made for products are generally reliable. We should not be lied to. So all power to Consumer for pursuing inaccurate claims in SPF advertising.

Reid B.

Marita B.
23 Nov 2019
Products that “do not meet the claim” are fine for most users

These test results are fear-mongering and misleading. An SPF 30 blocks 97% of UVB rays, whereas an SPF 50 blocks 98%. The difference between the two is very very small, a matter of an extra few minutes in the sun before having to reapply. For most users who don’t have a history of melanoma, extremely fair skin, or have extreme sensitivity to the sun, anything over SPF30 is fine and frankly, SPF15 is fine if you are not sitting out in the sun for long periods. And if you did have a history of melanoma, etc etc, using sunscreen would be your last option after staying in the shade, and wearing hats, su glasses and clothing as much more effective (and cheaper) barriers. To list a product that has a tested SPF of 48.69 as not meeting the claim is ridiculous and really unfair on the company.

The main reason sunscreens are ineffective is because people don’t use enough product. You mention using 35ml to cover one body and that will give you a couple of hours protection. For one family you are going to need a bottle a day if you are relying on sunscreen to protect you. People skimp because it’s expensive. And they buy SPF50+ because they think it will last a lot longer when it only gives them a couple extra minutes of protection over an SPF30+, whilst smothering themselves with increasingly toxic chemicals.

For many years the cancer councils in Australia (I was sun protection researcher there for 7 years in the 90s) insisted on advocating SPF15 only because people thought the higher SPFs meant they could stay out in the sun a lot longer. The industry pushed them to allow higher SPF to be advertised. But really, people should be using sunscreen as a last resort, and reapplying regularly, whilst using cloth and shade barriers as their main defence. Making a fuss about whether an SPF is 30 or 50 is in reality going to make very little difference for most users in most situations. People, don’t throw out your sunscreens and don’t freak out if your sunscreen “failed to meet the claim”.

Dorothy D.
23 Nov 2019
I heartily agree with Marita B's comment.

I note there does not appear to be mention of how and where testing was done. I believe NZ still does not have it's own regulatory mechanism for testing in NZ nor regulatory legislation on standards.
The rating of sunscreen effectiveness is more than just SPF factor. It includes its effectiveness in screening against both UVA and UVB.
Recommendations recently released by authorities in Australia are
1. Cover up,
2. Apply sunscreen that contains a barrier (that is either zinc or titanium) and protects against both UVB and UVA.
3 It must be applied 2 to 4 hourly all day long ( when total UC index is greater than 4) as UVA is present all day and can go through clouds and glass.

NZ has the highest incidence of melanoma in the world and has not shown signs of decreasind as it has in Australia who is our closest competitor.
As an accredited skin cancer doctor I recommend all NZers to have a regular skin check by a skin doctor and until NZ can produce a reliable list of suitable products by a regulatory body take advice on suitable sunscreens from their skin cancer doctor rather than relying on advertising and the internet and retail market.
Consumer means well and its advice useful and pertinent but is itself not a regulatory body.
As a corollary make sure thar when your skin is checked your doctor uses a dermascope and has qualifications to support that use.

Gill M.
21 Nov 2019
Daylong (now Cetaphil sun kids liposomal)

Consumer, thanks for continuing to so these tests and raise awareness in this area. For those looking for Daylong- best sunscreen, I agree. Used it for years myself and my children and never been burnt. It is now back in NZ rebranded as Cetaphil sun (kids). A liposomal cream & lotion available from pharmacies.

Marita B.
23 Nov 2019
Daylong sunscreen

I am glad to hear it’s changed it’s name! Any sunscreen product calling itself “daylong” is extremely misleading and frankly dangerous.

Peter H.
21 Nov 2019
Old recommended no good now?

The list has changed. What happened to the Nivea sun kids protect and sensitive 50+?

Consumer staff
22 Nov 2019
Re: Old recommended no good now?

Hi Peter,

Thanks for you comments. We remove test results from previous years as we can’t guarantee previously tested sunscreens are the same formulation that’s currently being sold.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

June C.
21 Nov 2019

Ok then what is recommended.

Consumer staff
22 Nov 2019
Re: Sunscreens

Hi June,

You can check out the products that met both their SPF label claim and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection on the "up to standard" section of our article: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/sunscreens/know-the-issue#article-up-to-standard

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

John S.
21 Nov 2019
Some of the products that failed claim to meet the Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard.

Surely if they fail this claim they can be prosecuted for misleading claims?
I only buy product that claims to meet this standard but now I am thinking I should only buy product that I know is also sold in Aus (and claims to meet the standard). Hopefully the Australians also test and hold to account those who fail.

Consumer staff
21 Nov 2019
Re: Some of the products that failed claim to meet the Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard.

Hi John,

Thanks for your comments. We’ll be notifying the Commerce Commission about the products that failed to meet label claims.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Raywn M.
21 Nov 2019
Last years UV Sunscreen

Is there a reason that the above sunscreen which had rave reviews last year is not listed this year.

Consumer staff
21 Nov 2019
Re: Last years UV Sunscreen

Hi Raywn,

Thanks for your query. We remove test results from previous years as we can’t guarantee previously tested sunscreens are the same formulation that’s currently being sold.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Simon West
21 Nov 2019
What about those not tested?

Your first tip says choose spf50+ water resistant etc. The results say Banana boat dry failed, but i don't see any results for the common available Banana Boat Sport. Has this been tested? if not, why not? Will this be tested?

Consumer staff
22 Nov 2019
Re: What about those not tested?

Hi Simon,

Thanks for your comments. Because sunscreen testing is very expensive and time-consuming it isn't possible for us to test all products on the market.

We suggest checking out the "up to standard" section of the article for products that met their SPF50+ label claims: https://www.consumer.org.nz/articles/sunscreens/know-the-issue#article-up-to-standard

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

terry B.
12 Nov 2019
Safe effective sunscreens

Can you please CLEARLY state which sunscreens have passed your tests to the highest standard for toddlers and children? All I keep seeing are the names of the ones you do NOT recommend,
Thank you

Consumer staff
13 Nov 2019
Re: Safe effective sunscreens

Hello Terry,

You can sort through the table on our "test results" tab to find which products for children and toddlers passed their SPF claims.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

R G M.
01 Nov 2019
Sunscreen Testing

Could you please test the following:-
Coola Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF50 - Fragrance Free
Coola Mineral Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF30 - Frangrance Free
Coola Mineral SPF 30 Sun Silk Creme Organic Sunscreen

John F.
31 Oct 2019
Nivea Sun Kids Protection

Beware of this product. It stained the children’s togs yellow so they are unable to be worn any longer. When I contacted Nivea to express concern they refused to provide compensation for the togs instead offering some free samples of Nivea products.

Karen P.
12 Oct 2019
Sunscreen Testing

Is it at all possible for the Cetaphil Sun Kids Liposomal Lotion SPF 50+ to be included in your next testing, as this has been rebranded and was originally called DayLong.

Consumer staff
14 Oct 2019
Re: Sunscreen Testing

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your comment. I have passed this onto our testing team for them to consider in their next batch of testing.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Jacqui N.
10 Apr 2019
Yes to testing sunscreen

I wholeheartedly support sunscreen having to meet a standard; it is not a cosmetic. It is scary to potentially using a safety product that may not be effective.

Phillip S.
27 Mar 2019
Personal use

I have struggled for many years trying to find a sunscreen that works for me. Have suffered irritation, inflamed skin residue on skin, blotchines. Might be fine doing lab tests but at the end of the day it is all about consumer satisfaction. Use of moisturisers could be an important consideration. I am an outdoorsy person, so have had a challenge.Phillip S

Trudy M.
21 Nov 2019
Have you tried

Oasis? I see theirs has passed the test. I use all their skin products, its made here in NZ and they use all natural ingredients.

Phillip S.
04 Mar 2019
Senitive Skin

Some screens can be quite irritating. Leaving a residue on the Skin can be unfort tunate. It is hard to find a sunscreen that becomes invisible when applied. The stated quantity is Sometimes questionable. I have searched widely for a sunscreen that works for me- non iritating. invisible after application . The best I have found so far" SUNSATIONAL SFP50+ 200ml Made in Australia

Another issue is protective apparel. NZ not good at this. I am currently wearing Solbari SFP 50 a product obtained from Australia.

Protective Sunscreen and clothing is a major issue in NZ. I am always investigating Sun protection. I have had over 35 skin treatments procedures ranging from over one hour to all day sessions .
There is a need to focus on the total picture an not just snapshots
Phil Simpson

Shannon S.
10 Jan 2019
Daylong Sunscreen

Daylong Sunscreen. I have used this brand for 10+ years. Outstanding product, but has been removed from the NZ market. Cannot seem to find the answer as to why?

Jacquie F.
18 Jan 2019

I agree and know of quite a few others who also agree. I have used it for years and it always worked well and also especially under make up. No one can tell me why is has been removed even ringing the suppliers

Karen P.
19 Jan 2019

Bring back Daylong- this was a fantastic sunscreen for people working outside, actually work.

Maggie L.
19 Jan 2019
Is it this one?

Daylong Suntivity Liposomal Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ - if so, it is still available and even passed consumer testing in 2017. Just google it, you can even buy it online.

Kathy T.
22 Jan 2019
Yes you CAN get it

From Life Pharmacy

Jean Edwards
04 Jan 2019
Confusion over red crosses, green ticks!

In the column about Oxybenzone and Octinoxate: there are red crosses (presumable a warning: DON'T USE) and a green tick (green usually meaning the green light: go ahead). BUT: I'm not sure whether the green tick actually means YES this contains these 2 ingredients-- or not??? Please explain!

Consumer staff
07 Jan 2019
Re: Confusion over red crosses, green ticks!

Hi Jean,

The ticks and crosses in the columns for oxybenzone and octinoxate showed whether or not a sunscreen contains either of these chemical absorbers. We've replaced these with Yes/No to make it clearer.

Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Christopher R.
30 Dec 2018
Sunscreen tests

Why are only 10 products tested? The range is extremely small and seems less than earlier testings.

Consumer staff
07 Jan 2019
Re: Sunscreen tests

Hi Christopher,

We are currently testing 10 more sunscreens and the results will be published as soon as they are available.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Ian M.
23 Dec 2018
Chart Format

Would it be possible to reformat the chart in a more readable format that doesn't require scrolling? There's not really that much information to present, there is just too much white space.

J W.
24 Dec 2018

Alternatively, present the reader with scroll bars that don't themselves scroll off the screen.

Gareth G.
23 Dec 2018
Where are the rest of the test results?

Hi Belinda,

The 2017 test results are no longer available on your website (the link within the news story for the 2017 tests now just links to the 2018 tests). As only 9 were tested, it would be very useful to have all test results available for members to view, including updates for those removed from sale (as a result of consumer's testing).


Consumer staff
07 Jan 2019
Re: Where are the rest of the test results?

Hi Gareth,

We remove test results from previous years as we can’t guarantee previously tested sunscreens are the same formulation that’s currently being sold.

Kind regards,

Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Previous member
01 Nov 2018

Just heard RNZ Pacific news and Palau and Hawaii have banned sunscreens like smart365 which i bought cos it rated so well in your test. This web site has the "problem chemicals" listed https://www.theinertia.com/environment/using-the-wrong-sunscreen-in-palau-will-now-carry-up-to-a-1000-fine-per-offense/ most of which are in my sunscreen . What do I do now.

Consumer staff
05 Nov 2018
Re: Sunscreen

Hi Roger,

We are aware of questions being raised about the effects of sunscreen ingredients on coral reefs – and in particular oxybenzone. We intend to look more closely at this issue in our next sunscreens report, due to be published in December. Because we know consumers may want to avoid products with certain ingredients we’ve listed the active ingredients in the online table. Here you can find the sunscreens without the concerning ingredients which met their SPF label claims and broad spectrum requirements.


Natalie - Consumer NZ staff

Previous member
15 Feb 2018
What about animal cruelty?

Why does your report say nothing about whether the products are tested on animals or not? Does animal suffering not matter to The Consumer? To some customers such as me this is an important consideration when buying. Please get with the times.

J W.
24 Dec 2018
Animal testing

They are all tested on animals (humans)

Richard H.
09 Dec 2017
New Zealand has Zero Real Policy of spending money on Cancer Prevention .

Although this subject is Sunscreens, prevention of skin cancer is far more than just this one aspect.
I was a pharmacist in Tasmania when from probably 1992 the Federal Government introduced "Stern" Legislation for schools.
All Australian States have strong legislation about sun burn prevention.
I could write pages on the frustrations I have had since 1996 when I returned to NZ and tried to get schools, councils etc to take Sun burn prevention seriously.
Anyone can check Google for articles on the recommended amount of sunscreen which should be applied to prevent sunburn.
Withe prices in New Zealand it is impossible for people on restricted income and say 2 or 3 (or more) children to be able to afford to keep their family safe.
The cost id horrendous. In Australia I can buy a 1 Litre container of SP50 for about $15.

Every Government since 1996 when I tried to find out why more was not done has indicated from the people I spoke to, that Skin Cancer was a very low priority in their budgets.

In Wanaka a few years ago the council put up a new play area. When I spoke to the then deputy mayor why there were no Sunshades, I was told "Not their Problem !!!"

So I will repeat, the overall policies of every government since 1996 in New Zealand has done very little bring in essential legislation to prevent skin cancer.

Throwing a few ads on TV each year does NOT constitute a definitive long term policy for skin cancer prevention.

Skin Cancer prevention is NOT just about sunscreens. It is about a total educational package, with examples being set by Councils, schools, and governments.

I believe in New Zealand, there still may be a policy of schools having the CHOICE !!??? of opting in for sun prevention. If it is now compulsory I apologise..
However I still get extremely angry (has anyone guessed), at the systematic abuse our very young children are subjected to.

Richard H

B P.
09 Dec 2017
Fully agree

I completely agree Richard. No compulsory testing/standard, no subsidisation of sunscreen equals increased long run health damage and cost for the country. The Cancer Society should be ashamed of its profiteering, whilst not meeting the stated SPF, from this basic health protection need.

Paul N.
25 Dec 2017

Have you considered contacting the NZ Herald about this? Might jump on it and give it much needed exposure.

Previous member
15 Apr 2019
Profiteering? Unsafe?

The suggestions that the Cancer Society is profiteering doesn't make sense, since it's a non-profit charity and many/most (?) of its staff are volunteers. As they state on their packaging, the proceeds from the sales go towards helping New Zealanders with cancer. With most other brands the profits are sent overseas to their shareholders.

The Cancer Society sunscreens are made in Australia where they have to comply with strict regulations around SPF levels. I've used their products for years and know first-hand the protection is excellent.

The info on this (Consumer NZ) website says SPF30 blocks 97%, and SPF50 blocks 98% of UV rays. So if we assume the Cancer Society score of SPF 41 is accurate, it would block something like 97.5% of UV rays. This equates to 99.5% of the stated SPF protection. In reality this is well within the margin of error of the testing methods and shouldn't be taken as proof the products aren't compliant.

Applying sunscreen to a small patch of skin on 10 people and seeing how red it is is the next day is an inherently unreliable way of testing sunscreens. You could test them repeatedly and get large variations in the scores.

I don't understand why some people are beating up on the Cancer Society. Their purpose is to prevent skin cancer and support people, not to line their pockets. In this age of globalisation we're lucky to have a local brand where the profits have a positive social impact.

Pauline D.
09 Dec 2017
Banana Boat - EveryDay

Unfortunately for me, I purchased a 400g bottle of Banana Boat EveryDay only last week and despite Banana Boat's claim in your report, "it no longer uses MIT in sunscreens sold in New Zealand". Well, this particular bottle does contain methylisothiazoline as listed on ingredients. Batch no: 706SB, Exp Aug 2019. Wonder if I can get a refund, any thoughts?

Previous member
11 Dec 2017
Re: Banana Boat - EveryDay

Hi Pauline,

It's worth asking the retailer for a refund, but it doesn't have to provide one as the product is an "everyday " sunscreen. If you purchased it from a pharmacy and the bottle is still untouched, the pharmacy may be happy to upgrade you to a different brand, but you'd have to pay the difference.

Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Previous member
09 Dec 2017

In order to understand these results you need to understand b the active ingredients: what they are; how they work (together? in isolation? ); strengths; weaknesses; risks, and so on.
Which would require a chemistry lesson...
Short advice: source and buy European products (I.e Avene/Bio-derma).
Or stay out of the sun.

Previous member
09 Dec 2017
Garnier Ambre Solaire

I've been using this one and doubt its affectiveness. It's available at supermarkets and pharmacies, can you test it?

Previous member
11 Dec 2017
Re: Garnier Ambre Solaire

Hi Angelique,

Thanks for the suggestion. We'll keep this product in mind for our next test.

Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Steve K.
09 Dec 2017
Please clarify

So, for instance, both Nivea and Cancer Society, which claim 50+, are in fact 45 and 40 respectively *according to the data they supplied*? How is this legal? (If I've got this wrong- then this chart is not clear).

Previous member
11 Dec 2017
Re: Please clarify

Hi Steve,

The table chart shows the SPF the products got when tested by Consumer NZ. So to clarify, the Nivea and Cancer Society sunscreens got 45 and 40 in the Consumer NZ test. Nivea provided two sets of results to support its SPF50+ label claim. The Cancer Society based its claims on test results for a similar (but not identical) product.

Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Susannah T.
07 Dec 2017
Self-tanning lotions

Hi, are you planning on updating this topic? Thanks.

Gavin S.
05 Dec 2017
Dry peel off Australian Sunscreen

Decades ago a sunscreen was available in Australia which dried to a plastic film which could be peeled off in sheets at the end of a day at the beach or pool. It would not wash off in pool or seawater.
It would prevent water pollution and greasy marks on carpaint, and car interiors and clothing. Is any sunscreen like this still available? Was it effective?

Previous member
06 Dec 2017
Re: Dry peel off Australian Sunscreen

Hi Gavin,

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately we're not familiar with this type of sunscreen and haven't tested it, so can't confirm its effectiveness.

Fonda - Consumer NZ staff

Sandra J.
04 Dec 2017
Toxicity a factor too

Also worth considering the possible health implications of sunscreen products, that reduces the list to only one option that I could see! Check out www.ewg.org

Previous member
04 Dec 2017
What about Nutrimetics?

Nutrimetics sun lotion is apparently better than all of them (and made here in NZ). Have you not come across it?

Previous member
05 Dec 2017
Re: What about Nutrimetics?

Hi Wayne,

We tested sunscreens that were widely available, as well as some natural sunscreens as requested by our members. Thanks for letting us know about Nutrimetics – we’ll keep it in mind for our next test.

Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Helen B.
26 Nov 2019

I use this sunscreen and it is great. My daughter has ezcema and it's one of the few that don't irritate her skin. But she can't use it on her face. They often have two for one offers. Would be great to have it tested.

Claire T.
02 Dec 2017
Daylong Suntivity

I have very fair skin and burn very easily. I have tried many sunscreens. I use the Daylong Suntivity and LOVE it. I have worn it for 8 hours while outside all day and not got sunburnt except for a small patch on the top of my foot which I'd missed! With other sunscreens I can feel myself beginning to burn after 2 hours.
Daylong is excellent for putting on under make up.

Sarah D.
01 Dec 2017
Spray sunscreens

I would be interested in knowing what the difference is between lotion and spray sunscreens and whether they live up to their claims.


Previous member
04 Dec 2017
Re: Spray sunscreens

Hi Sarah,

We didn’t test aerosol sunscreens to see whether they met their SPF claims. There’s two main issues with aerosol sunscreens. Firstly, there’s concern that consumers aren’t applying them properly and therefore not using enough which can result in sunburn. For this reason some companies have stopped selling aerosol sunscreens.

Secondly, they are an expensive option. Our colleagues in Australia tested how much of the can is actually sunscreen and found only about 40-60% of the can was sunscreen – the rest was propellant. It’s also easy to “overspray”, especially if it’s windy or you’re spraying a small area.

Belinda - Consumer NZ writer

Julie B.
21 Nov 2017
Sunscreen safety

I see today that you are undertaking a review of the efficacy of sunscreens.

Will you be looking at the effect of sunscreen on the environment and especially the impact on sunscreen in the water at beaches?

Apparently the aquatic organisms don't appreciate sunscreen. Is there sunscreen safe to use at beaches?

Also are there some sunscreens that are less likely to cause damage to paintwork on vehicles? The hand prints left on my car from sunscreened hands were cute initially, but the 'cuteness' wore off when I wanted to sell the vehicle.

I would also like to see some comment on safety vs efficacy of sunscreens used on little children, considering the smaller the child the greater it's surface area.



Previous member
21 Nov 2017
Re: Sunscreen safety

Hi Julie,

Thanks very much for your suggestions. We haven’t focussed on these topics in our upcoming report, but we’ll keep your suggestions in mind for any future update.

Kind regards,
Fonda – Consumer NZ staff

Nick C.
13 Jan 2017

With the increased awareness of how oxybenzone damages reefs and marine systems, it would be useful to have separate tables for mineral-based vs chemical sunscreens.

Gabriele K.
30 Oct 2016
Staining products

Along with the protection, I also look for products that do not stain fabrics. With many sunscreens we find that whites take on an orange tint and colours are bleached, for example, blue towels have pink stains.

Marcus B.
26 Jan 2015
Chemical Component

i have to agree with several of the comments regarding efficacy versus the potential absorption of undersirable chemical components. Many of the recommended sunscreens we have used are somewhat irritating and greasy. It would be great to test these lotions which balance all these variables and are predominantly naturally based. Clothing protection including a really good hat is our go to method.

L P K.
25 Jan 2015
Broader testing required

I endorse the comments of Claudia L & Miranda B. Many sunscreens cause eyes to sting - so we avoid putting them on our foreheads and temples. I have used Neutrogena for some time, but have now developed a reaction to it.
Other factors important to us are eyes stinging, absorbency, water resistance. If these do not work, the sunscreen is no use to us.
Can we please have some testing that scratches a little below the surface and addresses usability and longer term effects of use.

Previous member
01 Jan 2016
Agree, more long range consideration to sunblocks

Absolutely agree there ought to be a more far reaching analysis into sunblocks. We recently bought some 50+ Banana Boat sprays and my kids are in pain when this stuff touches their sunkissed skin. It can't be doing them any good.

28 Dec 2014

Can you please add Skinnies to your testing. This is a Gel over a lotion and personally I have found it to be very good. (No I don't work for Skinnies)

Previous member
21 Dec 2014

I think there should also have been information on ingredients. I have heard of a few clients having allergic reactions to some sunscreens which have higher levels of propylene glycol & SLS's etc. I prefer the micronised zinc oxide with minimal bad chemicals,as it is a physical barrier rather than a chemical barrier.

Mike P.
24 Jan 2015
All chemical components

Problem is few products are tested for all their constituent chemicals. Nor is there sufficient assessment of the the interactions between the combinations of chemicals used. In addition most testing isn't done on a long term use basis. All these variables need to be effectively tested to be sure there is no potential negative health impacts. Consumer needs to up its game in regard to advising about the risks many people expose themselves to from many commonly used products. Consumer is not my go to place for anything regarding this type of information that consumers ought to have as of right.

Previous member
16 Dec 2014
sunscreens factors

Other factors are as important to our family such as eyes stinging, absorbency, water resistance. If these do not work, the sunscreen is not good to us.

Miranda B.
15 Dec 2014
Other sunscreen test factors

Whilst I agree that the major purpose of sunscreen is to protect us from the suns rays, there are other factors which strongly influence my decision on which to buy - which marks your car paint, how it feels on your skin, how much it stings your eyes once you get sweating, how much it is absorbed into your skin or leaves a white tone. I don't care about price, I want the best sunscreen for me and my family.