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More sunscreens don’t meet SPF label claims

Consumer NZ stands by its sunscreen testing and dismisses criticisms by manufacturers as irresponsible and unsubstantiated.

Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin said its latest test found another five sunscreens failed to meet SPF label claims. “These disappointing results follow our first batch of testing, where only four of 10 sunscreens met SPF label claims,” she said.

Consumer NZ commissioned an accredited lab to conduct a 10-person test of the sunscreens. The test was carried out according to the Australian and New Zealand voluntary standard.

Eco Tan Natural Coconut Sunscreen Untinted SPF30 only gave low protection of SPF12 in the test, despite claiming high protection of SPF30.

Skinnies Kids Barefoot Babe SPF50 had an SPF of 25 (moderate protection). “Skinnies went to market with this product after getting a valid test result for only one person. It then found the SPF was degrading and had to reformulate,” Ms Chetwin said.

Skinnies is retesting the reformulated sunscreen and preliminary results based on two subjects showed the reformulated product is likely to meet its SPF50 claim.

The other three products had an SPF50+ label claim but returned SPFs from 41 to 45. Although they still provided high protection, it was not the very high protection claimed.

Ms Chetwin said two companies, Le Tan and We Are Feel Good Inc, provided lab reports showing their products had been tested on 10 subjects and met their label claims before being put on the market.

The Cancer Society based the SPF claim for its Kids Pure Low Irritant Sun Lotion SPF50+ on a technical report that evaluated a 10-person test of a formula with the same active ingredients but different preservatives. The technical report only included a three-person test of the sunscreen Consumer NZ tested.

As a result of Consumer NZ’s findings, the Cancer Society sent the sunscreen to a US lab for testing. “Preliminary results from three subjects showed it’s likely to meet its SPF50+ label claims, but it hasn’t provided a full 10-subject test,” Ms Chetwin said.

The response from some manufacturers to the test results was alarming, she said. “Given the discrepancies we found, we’d expect manufacturers to immediately carry out a 10-person test of their products and review their testing programmes, rather than attack the messenger.”

Consumer NZ is asking the government to make the sunscreen standard mandatory as part of the upcoming review of therapeutic products.

Consumer NZ is testing four more sunscreens and results will be online at as soon as they are available.

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