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Five Sunscreens Fail To Meet SPF Label Claims

Consumer NZ’s latest test of sunscreens found five of 10 products didn’t provide the sun protection claimed. Two of these sunscreens also failed to meet their broad-spectrum protection claims.

Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said two sunscreens that failed were marketed as “natural” products: Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30 and Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30. These sunscreens only provided moderate protection (SPF15 to 25), not the high protection (SPF30) claimed.

Duffy said when Consumer NZ asked the companies for evidence to back their SPF claims, they provided reports from AMA Laboratories, a US sunscreen-testing facility. In 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration announced AMA’s owner had been charged with, and some staff had pleaded guilty to, falsifying test results from 1987 to April 2017.

The report provided by Natural Instinct was based on testing by AMA undertaken in 2012 and 2015. Sukin’s report dated back to testing done in 2011.

Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ got an SPF of 40.4 (high protection) in Consumer NZ’s test, not the 50+ claimed on the label.

Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+ and Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+ also failed to meet their very high protection claims and the requirements for making a broad-spectrum claim.

Le Tan provided a lab report of a batch tested in Australia over 2013 and 2014. As a result of Consumer NZ’s test, the company is retesting this product. It’s the second time the Le Tan sunscreen has failed to meet its SPF label claim in Consumer NZ’s testing.

Ecosol provided a 2015 test report from AMA. The New Zealand distributor has advised it will relabel the product as SPF30.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world. “Despite this, there’s no requirement for sunscreen manufacturers to regularly test their products. In fact, we have the unacceptable situation that the sunscreen standard is voluntary, so sunscreens don’t have to be tested at all,” Duffy said.

Last year, Consumer NZ made a submission to the Ministry of Health supporting a mandatory sunscreen standard and calling for regulations specifying how often sunscreens must be tested.

Full test results are available free on consumer.org.nz. Results will also be published in the December/January issue of Consumer.

Consumer NZ test results

The following products met SPF and broad-spectrum label claims:

  • 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

The following products failed to meet SPF label claims but met broad-spectrum claims:

  • Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+
  • Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen SPF30
  • Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted SPF30

The following products failed to meet SPF and broad-spectrum label claims:

  • Le Tan Coconut Lotion SPF50+
  • Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen SPF50+

Note: Covid-19 lockdowns have affected the overseas labs Consumer NZ uses for testing. The organisation is waiting on test results for more sunscreens. Results will be published on consumer.org.nz as soon as possible.

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 teaspoon 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.

A sunscreen is only one part of your defence. 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 UV index is greater than three), limit your time outside.

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