Only four sunscreens in our latest test met their SPF claims.

sunscreen products

Our latest round of sunscreen testing found 14 products that didn’t give the SPF protection claimed – four products only gave low protection. As a result of our testing, one sunscreen has been removed from sale.

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This report is free thanks to funding from the Ministry of Health.

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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. Wearing sunscreen is an important part of your defence against these damaging rays.

But can you have faith in the label claims? We checked 19 sunscreens against two aspects of the voluntary Australian and New Zealand standard for sunscreens: a sunscreen’s SPF (sun protection factor), which measures protection against UVB rays, and its broad-spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays). The standard requires SPF to be assessed using a test panel of 10 volunteers in a lab – there’s no trip to Fiji for our panel.

Up to standard

Only three of the sunscreens met their SPF label claim and the requirements for broad-spectrum protection: Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Lotion SPF50+ ($7.50 per 100ml), UV Guard Max Sunscreen SPF50+ ($12.00) and Essone Natural Sunscreen Summer Coconut & Jojoba SPF30 ($51.30).

Left to right: Essone Natural Sunscreen Summer Coconut & Jojoba SPF30, UV Guard Max Sunscreen SPF50+, Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Lotion SPF50+, Smart365 Sun Sunscreen Lotion Kids SPF50+.

Smart365 Sun Sunscreen Lotion Kids SPF50+ ($4.00 per 100ml from The Warehouse) met its very high protection label claim. However, it failed one of the broad-spectrum requirements (its protection against UVA wasn’t at least a third of its SPF protection).

We contacted The Warehouse about our test results and it sent a sample to a US laboratory to check its broad-spectrum compliance. These test results showed it met the broad-spectrum requirements. The sunscreen sample we tested was from a different batch so the lab and batch variation could explain the difference in results.

Contradictory results

Fourteen products didn’t meet the SPF claimed on their label. We sent our results to the companies and asked what evidence they’d used to make their claims.

Cancer Society Kids Pure Low Irritant Sun Lotion SPF50+ provides high protection, but not the very high protection it claims. It based its SPF50+ claim on a technical report that concluded it was “highly unlikely” the formula would fail to provide SPF50+ protection. This conclusion was based on a 10-person test of a formula with the same active ingredients but different preservatives. However, there was only a three-person test of the sunscreen we tested.

As a result of our findings, the Cancer Society sent a sample of the batch we tested to a US lab. The 10-person test report from this lab showed the sunscreen met its SPF50+ label claim.

The Cancer Society said it will test all its sunscreens (except aerosols) for the upcoming season. It has also committed to ongoing testing every two years.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion has an SPF50 label claim. With a tested SPF of 42, it still provides high protection but not the SPF 50 claimed.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face & Body Dry-Touch Sunscreen Lotion provides high protection but not the SPF 50 claimed.

In December 2017, Johnson & Johnson New Zealand (the marketers of Neutrogena) signed court-enforceable undertakings that its sunscreens would meet the voluntary standard, after our previous testing found the company’s Neutrogena Sensitive Skin SPF60+ failed to provide the high protection it claimed. Testing by the Commerce Commission also found this cream didn’t meet the SPF60+ claim. The company voluntarily withdrew the sunscreen in September 2016. It said it stood by its test results.

Johnson & Johnson told us all Neutrogena sunscreens currently sold in New Zealand met the standard. But it declined to provide us with a test certificate for its Ultra Sheer Face & Body sunscreen. The company said the SPF50 label claim was backed by test results and it stood by the claim.

The distributors of We Are Feel Good Inc. Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+, Bondi Sands Coconut Beach Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, Banana Boat SunComfort SPF50+, Sunsense Sensitive Invisible SPF50+, EK Kawakawa & Tamanu Certified Natural Sun Protection SPF50+ and Coola Classic Body Plumeria SPF30 provided us with test results showing their products had been tested on 10 human subjects and met their claimed SPF.

We Are Feel Good Inc. provided us with 2018 test results from a US lab. The distributors of Le Tan gave us supporting results based on 12 subjects from 2016 and 2017.

However, the Banana Boat and Sunsense test certificates were from 2015 and the Coola testing was done in 2013 – five years ago! As a result of our test, Coola said it was commissioning an independent review of its formula.

Sunscreen manufacturers don’t have to regularly test their products, but we think they should to make sure different batches are still meeting label claims.

EK provided us with a 10-subject test report from the lab we use, which showed the sunscreen met its SPF50+ label claim. The difference was that EK tested the product after being exposed to water, to support its water-resistance claim. Our test didn’t assess water resistance.

It’s unusual for a sunscreen to have a higher SPF after being in water. We conducted further testing and found this sunscreen absorbed water, which resulted in the higher post-immersion SPF. This can happen as the film on the skin swells.

We think sunscreens should be able to meet SPF label claims before being exposed to water, as well as meeting any water resistance claims. EK said it would change the label claim on future batches to SPF50.

Skinnies Kids Barefoot Babe SPF50 had an SPF of 25. Skinnies Kids went to market with this product after getting only one valid test result (not the required ten subjects). It then found the SPF was degrading and had to reformulate. Skinnies didn’t issue a recall of the affected batches. It’s now testing the reformulated sunscreen. Preliminary results based on two subjects showed the reformulated product is likely to meet its SPF50 claim.

Alba Botanica Sensitive Fragrance Free Sunscreen SPF30 only provides moderate protection (SPF20). The company didn’t provide evidence to support its claim.

Marketed as “natural” products, Eco Tan Natural Coconut Sunscreen Untinted SPF30, Five Element Sunscreen SPF30 and Back To The Wild Natural Sunscreen only provided low protection (SPF 4 to 14) in our test.

Eco Tan said the product complied with the voluntary sunscreen standard but didn’t provide a test certificate to supports its SPF30 claim. Five Element couldn’t provide test evidence to support its label claim and has stopped selling this product.

Back To The Wild didn’t claim an SPF rating and had no ingredients list, batch code or date marking. The company had not tested its product on humans in a lab. It said new labels contain ingredients, batch number and a best-before date, but it won’t be adding an SPF.

Why the variation?

  • Lack of consistency between batches: Companies don’t have to regularly test their products to ensure they still meet SPF claims even if the ingredient supply changes. This is especially an issue for sunscreens containing titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.
  • Testing on humans: The standard for SPF testing is based on human subjects so there will always be variability. People burn at different rates, which can give different results in small sample sizes.
  • Lack of consistency between labs: Our testing has highlighted the variability of results between laboratories when products are tested the same way.
  • Storage conditions: Sunscreens deteriorate over time, especially if kept in hot places.

Standard practice

The sunscreen standard is mandatory in Australia, but voluntary here (where sunscreens are classified as cosmetics). Products that meet other international standards, such as those in the US or EU, are also allowed to be sold as well as sunscreens that don’t meet any standard at all.

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.

When US consumer organisation Consumer Reports tested sunscreens earlier this year 24 of the 73 lotions, sprays, sticks and lip balms tested at less than half their labelled SPF.

The experts agree. The New Zealand Dermatological Society and Skin Cancer College Australasia supports our campaign for regulation.

Skin Cancer College president Dr Keith Monnington said voluntary compliance with the standard is not satisfactory for a country with high skin cancer rates. “Consumers need to have confidence in SPF claims made by sunscreen manufacturers,” Dr Monnington said.

Our results aren’t a one-off. Last year only nine (out of 20) sunscreens in our test met their SPF label claim and requirements for broad spectrum.

It’s a similar story overseas. When US consumer organisation Consumer Reports tested sunscreens earlier this year 24 of the 73 lotions, sprays, sticks and lip balms tested at less than half their labelled SPF. Consumer organisations in Australia and the UK have also found sunscreens not meeting label claims.

The Ministry of Health is working on new legislation to regulate therapeutic products. Sunscreens are likely to be included but no final decision has been made. When the draft legislation is released, we’ll be making a submission calling for the sunscreen standard to be mandatory.

What’s in them?

Sunscreens can be broadly divided into two groups – physical blockers and chemical absorbers.

Physical blockers

Physical blockers (such as 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 physical sunscreens now use nanoparticles – tiny molecules with one or more dimension less than 100nm – which makes the sunscreen transparent.

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.

There is debate about the safety of nanoparticles and whether they can penetrate the outer layer of skin.

In January 2017, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration updated its review on the safety of zinc oxide and titanium oxide nanoparticles. The review looked at both in vitro (studies on skin cells) and in vivo (studies on humans and animals). It 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 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%. 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.

Chemical absorbers

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. Chemical sunscreens will often have a combination of ingredients to protect against UVA and UVB.

Oxybenzone and octinoxate: an environmental concern

Some people choose to avoid certain chemical absorbers, such as oxybenzone, because of concerns they are endocrine disruptors. However, these effects have been only shown in animal and tissue tests with doses vastly greater than you’d be exposed to when using a sunscreen. Studies in humans have shown no evidence of endocrine effects.

However, oxybenzone (also called benzophenone-3) and octinoxate (aka octyl methoxycinnamate) are chemical absorbers that are emerging as an environmental concern, especially in beach regions where they’re washed off.

Studies have shown some chemical blockers are toxic to coral and potentially harmful to other aquatic organisms.

A 2015 study published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology identified oxybenzone as toxic to coral. Baby coral exposed to oxybenzone showed signs of coral bleaching (a condition that leaves it vulnerable to infection and prevents it getting nutrients), DNA damage, and growth and skeletal abnormalities.

Other studies have shown the chemicals are potentially harmful to other aquatic organisms such as fish, sea urchins and shrimp.

Due to the evidence showing these ingredients impact negatively on 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 use of oxybenzone and octinoxate in sunscreens is regulated. At present, it’s allowed to be used up to a maximum concentration of 10%. Regulators in Europe have recently reduced this to 6% for oxybenzone.

To choose sunscreens without these chemicals, check the ingredients list – sunscreen actives must be listed.

Sunscreen 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 out the active ingredients and preservatives of our tested sunscreens in our table.

We say

It’s time the government made the Australian and New Zealand standard mandatory. The current situation where compliance is voluntary isn’t good enough for a country with one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

Companies should be testing each new formulation of a product, especially if it contains different active ingredients. They should also regularly test their products to ensure different batches still meet their label claims.

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 to 300 minutes and for SPF50 it would be 500 minutes.

That’s the theory. These times 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 2 hours you’re in the sun. No sunscreen blocks 100% of UV rays: SPF15 blocks 93% of UVB, SPF30 blocks 97%, and SPF50 blocks 98%.

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.

Remember – a sunscreen is only one part of your defence against UV radiation. The New Zealand Dermatological Society also recommends you 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 Ultraviolet Index (UVI) is greater than three) it’s also a good idea to limit your time in the sun.

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 new 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 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.

Member comments

Get access to comment

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

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

Roger W.
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 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

Paul Beach
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.

Mat H.
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

Cordell W.
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.

Angelique M.
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

Wayne S.
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

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.

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)

Heloise S.
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.

Claudia L.
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.

Alison M.
15 Dec 2014
Sunscreen Testing

Did you test the Cancer Society Everyday SPF 50+ or just the Kids version? I don't know the difference between them but it would be good to know.

Previous member
19 Dec 2014
Re: Sunscreen testing

Hi Alison,

We just tested the Cancer Society Kids Pure SPF50+.


Richard - Consumer NZ staff