Choice reveals the popular sunscreens that failed to deliver on SPF 50+ claim

Esther Han
Published: December 12, 2015 – 12:15AM

The weather is hot, the beach is beckoning, and thoughts are turning to sun protection. But tests have found popular sunscreens are failing to live up to their SPF claims.

Consumer advocacy group Choice tested six SPF 50+ sunscreens and found four failed to deliver on their UV protection claims, with worst performer Ego Sunsense Sport 50+ only providing an SPF 29.

“Australians have one the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, making sunscreens an essential part of outdoor life. So it is deeply concerning these products are not providing their stated level of protection,” said Choice’s Tom Godfrey.

The four products that failed tests were Banana Boat Baby Finger Spray and Banana Boat Sport tube, both of which only offered SPF 42, Ombra Kids roll-on, which actually offered SPF 36, and the Ego Sunsense Sport.

The two products that matched its sun protection claims were the Cancer Council’s Classic Zinc and Nivea Sun Kids Caring roll-on.

“If these products don’t meet their stated SPF claims, you are at risk of burning quicker than you would with a true SPF 50+ product,” said Mr Godfrey.

“Given that most people don’t use enough sunscreen, applying a true SPF50+ product will better allow for some user error.”

Ego Pharmaceuticals’ scientific affairs manager Dr Kerryn Greive​ defended the company’s Sunsense Sport sunscreen, saying it had official certification to support its SPF claim and to register it with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Sunscreens sold in Australia must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration. In order to be listed, manufacturers must test the product according to the Australian standard.

“Our consumers have no reason to be concerned by these abnormal results. Every SunSense product is tested for quality at our laboratories and SunSense sunscreens are subject to regular and on-going stability testing to ensure quality and consistency,” she said.

“Australia has one of the highest incidences of skin cancer in the world and it’s important that Australians aren’t discouraged from using sunscreen to protect against UV damage.”

Dr Greive said all SunSense products were made and tested according to TGA requirements.

“Our manufacturing facility in Australia is licensed by the TGA, with all of our sunscreen manufacturing methods fully validated in compliance with the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). This ensures the quality and reproducibility of our processes,” she said.

A TGA spokesman said the regulator would consider Choice’s findings before determining what appropriate action may be required.

The TGA capped the maximum rating of SPF 50+ in November, 2012.

“If a breach of the legislative requirements is identified, compliance actions can include a proposal to cancel the product from the ARTG, which would mean the product could not be sold in Australia,” he said.

“If concerns relating to the quality, efficacy or safety of a therapeutic product arise, the TGA can require that the product is removed from supply on the Australian market.”

The Cancer Council’s Craig Sinclair said both SPF30+ and SPF50+ sunscreens offered high levels of protection, with the former filtering out 96.7 per cent of UV radiation and SPF 50+ filtering out 98 per cent.

While accurate labelling was important, he said the bigger issue was Australians were not applying an adequate amount.

He also said consumers could generally be confident in SPF claims because in Australia sunscreens were treated as therapeutic goods, that is, in the same category as medicines.

“Current testing guidelines include human subjects, which can result in some variability. The standard involves testing how long it takes for human skin to burn when the sunscreen is applied,” he said.

“Different individuals can burn at different rates, resulting in different results in small sample sizes. In the future hopefully, we will have better ways of testing sunscreen that won’t involve variable human factors.”

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A little bit worrying heading into summer. Make sure you buy a brand you can trust. As with cheap first aid courses you have to make sure you are getting a good quality product that is why we make sure our first aid courses in Canberra are up to the national standards and arent just a cheap first aid course but a great one also.

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