Revealed: Leading sunscreens fail sun protection tests

For the second year running our sunscreens testing has revealed more Don’t Buy products that are failing to provide the protection they claim.

Only 11 of 13 new products we looked at using strict British Standard tests lived up to their claims to provide a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30. Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30 (200ml) and Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30 (180ml) both failed our tests and have been labelled as ‘Don’t Buy’ products, as each only offers around two-thirds of its claimed SPF. Worryingly, Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30 (180ml) is the second Hawaiian Tropic product to fail our tests in the last two years.

Sunscreens are designed to protect skin from UVA and UVB radiation which may increase the risk of developing skin cancer. SPF indicates the amount of protection sunscreens offer against UVB, which is the main cause of sunburn, and any sunscreen that doesn’t offer the protection it claims could expose you to a greater risk as you’ll be getting less protection than you expect. We’re challenging manufacturers to make sure that their products always offer the protection they claim.

Our research also shows an effective product doesn’t have to cost the earth – in our tests, affordable own-brand lotions from Asda, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s all offered the SPF claimed.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said:

“We’re very concerned that a further two popular sunscreens have now failed our tests. Consumers must be able to trust and rely on the information provided by manufacturers so it’s disappointing to see well-known brands falling short. We want them to take action to ensure their products deliver the promised protection.”

Dr. Claire Knight, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, said:

“In the UK more than eight in 10 skin cancers could be prevented by enjoying the sun safely and not getting sunburnt. The SPF and star rating are the two most important things to look out for when choosing sunscreen so, whichever brand you choose, it’s vital you can trust the information given on the bottle. Using sunscreen isn’t the only way to protect your skin from strong sun. Covering up with a shirt, hat and sunglasses and spending time in the shade are the best ways to reduce the risk of sunburn and skin cancer.

Notes to editors:

  1. We tested 13 products with a claimed sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 and, using British Standard tests, measured them on their SPF and UVA protection.
  2. The two newly tested products that don’t meet their SPF claims are: Boots Soltan Protect & Moisturise Lotion SPF30 (200ml), Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Lotion SPF30 (180ml). Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid SPF30 (150ml) and Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection Sun Lotion SPF30 (200ml) both failed our 2014 tests and we continue to recommend that consumers avoid these products.
  3. We used the standard SPF test which involves using a carefully measured amount of each sun cream and applying it to a small, consistently sized area on a volunteer’s back. Each product was tested on 10 volunteers. A special lamp which simulates the UVB rays radiated by the sun is shone on the volunteer’s back and used for carefully set lengths of time. Lab assistants check for redness after the UVB exposure. The shortest amount of exposure with and without the product was compared to establish its SPF. Watch how we test sun creams here.
  4. Sunscreen test results can be found here:


Sunscreens table





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