Sunscreen products must live up to their claims

Consumers heading off on holiday this summer need to feel confident that the sunscreen they use lives up to the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) claimed, but a Which? test found one sunscreen failed to do so.

Which? assessed a total of 14 sunscreen products from high-street brands and found that one sunscreen – Avon’s Sun+Multi Protection Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30 (£10) – did not offer the protection it claimed in its tests. Despite being the most expensive sunscreen tested, the sun lotion didn’t pass the SPF tests and has been labelled a Which? ‘Don’t Buy’.

The other 13 products tested passed the British Standard SPF and UVA tests. This included products from international brands like Hawaiian Tropic and Nivea, as well high street own-brands such as Morrisons and Superdrug.

Which? has been testing sunscreens for years and believes consumers need the reassurance that any product they buy is safe and lives up to its claims. The consumer organisation now wants to see more frequent testing of sunscreens by manufacturers; the addition of a use-by date; as well as the removal of confusing water resistance claims on sunscreens and SPF numbers on make-up products.

Richard Headland, Editor of Which? Magazine, said:

“As the summer holiday season approaches, anyone choosing and applying a sunscreen should be confident that it will help protect them from the sun’s rays. Sunscreens are a key part of sun safety so it’s important to pick a product you can rely on.

“It’s disappointing to see that, although most sunscreens passed our test, one didn’t provide the claimed level of protection. Manufacturers should only be selling products that live up to their claims which is why Which? will continue to monitor and challenge the industry.”

– ENDS –

Notes to editors:

  • To help consumers stay protected in the sun, Which? has listed four reasons why sunscreens might not be as safe as people might think:
  • Stay away from once a day: Last year, Which? tested four ‘once a day’ sunscreens to see whether they’d really protect you all day. It found that none of them were up to the job – the average drop in SPF after 6-8 hours was 74%, meaning a hypothetical SPF30 product would drop to just SPF8.
  • No compulsory monitoring: Manufacturers test products before they go to market, but they may not be tested again for years. Proactive regular checking of products on shop shelves by manufacturers isn’t compulsory.
  • A lack of use-by dates: Use-by dates are not compulsory in the UK – here a ‘period after opening’ logo is used instead. Which? thinks use-by dates are easier to identify and understand.
  • SPF claims are used on make-up: For any product to offer the SPF it claims, you need to apply 2mg per cm2 –around a teaspoon of product would need to be applied to your face. And it needs to be regularly reapplied. In reality people are unlikely to apply the amount of make-up required – in the case of foundation, that would mean a 30ml bottle would only last six applications.
  • SPF was tested using the British Standard. The SPF testing involves:
  • Applying a set amount of sunscreen to an area on a volunteer’s back. A UV lamp, that simulates the rays of the sun, is then directed onto the area.
  • Recordings are taken when the skin turns red, comparing the smallest dose of UV light required to turn skin red, both with and without sunscreen. Each product is tested on ten volunteers.
  • UVA is tested using a British Standard. Unlike SPF testing, the Standard doesn’t require UVA to be tested on human volunteers. Instead, we use a spectrophotometer (a machine that measures light) to measure the amount of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen.
  • Which? also has each product tested by a panel of volunteers to check whether it makes skin greasy or sticky. Consumers have told us they dislike using sunscreens that feel unpleasant.
  • When we told Avon about our results, it said that it was confident in its own testing which showed the lotion to have SPF30, followed internationally recognised protocols and was conducted by external laboratories with specific expertise in the testing.
  • For more information on buying and using sunscreens and recommended Best Buys, head to

Sunscreen test results:



Price per 100ml

SPF test performance

UVA test performance

Aldi Lacura Suncare Spray SPF30




Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Spray SPF30




Calypso SPF30 Press & Protect Lotion




Garnier Ambre Solaire Dry Mist Spray SPF30




Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection SPF30 Lotion




Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Protective Sun Lotion SPF30




M&S Sun Smart Moisture Protect Sun Lotion SPF30




Malibu Protective Lotion SPF30




Morrisons Sun Lotion SPF30




Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture Sun Spray SPF30




Piz Buin Allergy Sensitive Lotion SPF30




Superdrug Solait Lotion SPF30




Tesco Soleil Light Lotion SPF30




Avon Sun+ Multi Protection Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30




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