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 guidelines for sunscreen products, and are stored and used according to the instructions, are safe, reliable and offer effective sun protection.
“The testing of sunscreens is a fraught business - variable and often subjective as it is carried on skin which is variable,” comments CHPNZ executive director Scott Milne. “We have not been privy to the methodology Consumer uses, but the industry standard is to test on ten subjects.”
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.
“Adding more regulation and legislation will only add costs and complexity, and it may reduce competition as smaller manufacturers will find the process too costly. Plus, this will not necessarily solve the problem of inconsistent testing results.
“The issue is not whether the standard is mandatory or whether the product should be treated as a medicine, it is whether the testing methods used by manufacturers and consumer organisations are consistent. Responsible sunscreen manufacturers want to deliver effective and consistent quality products, so they would welcome more clarity as well.”
CHPNZ says it supports the work being done by Cosmetics NZ and its role on the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) sunscreen working group. The group has been concerned for some time about the variation of test methods procedures being used within ISO Standard 24444 and earlier this year assisted with updating and publication of an updated standard.
The AS/NZS 2604 joint standard cites ISO 24444 as the method test laboratories use but it does not specify how processes and procedures are done since that is specified in the ISO standard.
The working group has been revising and upgrading AS/NZS 2604, to clarify that the new ISO Standard 24444 must be used in testing and to also bring in two new ISO Water Resistance methods. Applying ISO standards is designed to achieve more international consistency to check on SPF claims.
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.
“2021 should bring with it stricter testing guidelines and SPF claims we can all have confidence in,” comments Mr Milne.
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.