Reliable Sunscreen Testing Still A Burning Issue In NZ
Another summer, another Consumer New Zealand story on the reliability of sunscreens and the inevitable calls from the publication for more stringent regulations on the product.
Consumer healthcare products industry body, Consumer Healthcare Products New Zealand (CHPNZ), today reminded consumers that all sun-care products that fully comply with New Zealand’s current standards, and are stored and used according to the instructions, are safe, reliable and offer effective sun protection.
“Two products have recently failed Consumer NZ tests on SPF protection claims. They are identical to two products widely sold in Australia. They met the extremely stringent regulations there so this failure is unexpected and difficult to rationalise,” comments CHPNZ executive director Scott Milne.
“The testing of sunscreens is tricky - it is carried on skin which is variable,” he says.
“We have not been privy to the methodology Consumer NZ uses, but assume it complied with the industry standard, testing on ten subjects. We are particularly concerned about this latest round of testing with poor communication from Consumer NZ about how they collected, transported and stored samples prior to and during shipping to the European test organisation. Product integrity is paramount in these very important procedures and to say the organisations behaviour has been adequate in this case is being generous. We need integrity of process as well as integrity of manufacture to ensure compliance with standards.”
New Zealand has the highest rate of melanoma in the world, and melanoma is the most common form of cancer in New Zealand. More than 350 New Zealanders die from melanoma each year. It is estimated that more than 80,000 Kiwis get non-melanoma skin cancer each year.2,3
Australia and New Zealand share a joint standard for sunscreen testing and labelling, AS/NZS 2604:2012 Sunscreen products – Evaluation and Classification. While the standard is mandatory in Australia, it is currently voluntary in NZ where sunscreens are classified as cosmetics. In New Zealand, there are no consent or registration requirements that apply before marketing or distributing sunscreens.
CHPNZ says it supports the work being done by Cosmetics NZ and its role on the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sunscreen working group which has involved an update to the ISO Standard 24444 published last year.
The Australian and New Zealand sunscreen standard working group has been revising and upgrading AS/NZS 2604, to adopt the new ISO Standard 24444 and to also bring in two new ISO Water Resistance methods. ISO standards are internationally recognised test methods.
These changes to testing standards should improve consistency in the processes used by testing laboratories.
For example, the new standard describes the sunscreen application procedures in greater detail. It specifies how much sunscreen should be applied and at what rate, how it should be evenly spread and how long it should be left to dry. The redness of the skin is then observed and assessed.
Mid to late 2021 should bring with it stricter testing guidelines and SPF claims we can all have even greater confidence in.
However, the fact remains, sunscreen is only one way to protect the skin from sun damage. There needs to be more education and reinforcement of the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ message. And New Zealanders should always apply sunscreen according to the instructions on the pack.