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Consumer To Test More Sunscreens


Consumer NZ

11 February 2008

Consumer To Test More Sunscreens

Consumer NZ is to test the sun protection factor (SPF) of 10 of the most popular sunscreens available on the market, following the significant failure of a Cancer Society sunscreen.

Last week Consumer NZ announced that tests it had done on the Cancer Society Sunscreen SPF 30+ Trigger Spray, showed it significantly failed to meet the SPF claim. Consumer-commissioned tests carried out on 10 volunteers showed the sunscreen achieved only an average SPF of 23.3. The Cancer Society has agreed to recall the product. And the Commerce Commission is also investigating.

Consumer is concerned there appears to be major differences between tests of samples supplied by the manufacturer, which meet the SPF claims, and sunscreens bought over the counter (as ordinary consumers buy them), which fall well below the standard.

Consumer CEO Sue Chetwin said its testing was done on a Trigger Spray it bought over the counter in Wellington. A second test on three volunteers at another accredited laboratory of that sunscreen and one which the Cancer Society bought at a Wellington supermarket, significantly failed to meet the SPF claim. Both of them reached an average of less than 20.

This contrasted with tests organised by the Cancer Society on the manufacturer’s retained samples of the Trigger Spray, which showed it met the SPF claim. Those samples had never been sold or stored in shops.

Consumer NZ CEO Sue Chetwin said this should be of public concern. People believe the claims made on the products they buy, in this case the SPF30+ rating. A test of popular sunscreens is now urgent to reassure the public that these products offer the protection they claim.

Ms Chetwin said Consumer advice on sunscreen was that it wasn’t bullet-proof.
You could be burnt because you stayed outside for a long time and
• didn’t apply enough
• didn’t reapply it regularly (every two hours)
• Had fair skin.
You can be burnt by reflection from water even when it's overcast.

If you think that your sunscreen is faulty, call the distributor – there should be a contact phone number on the package. The distributor may ask you to send the bottle you bought so it can be sent for testing. Keep a record of the batch number and the expiry date on the package before sending it.

If you think the sunscreen does not meet its claims for protection you can lay a complaint with the Commerce Commission, phone 0800 94 3600 during working hours or email


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