Revealed: Sun creams that fail to live up to claims

New Which? research into the effectiveness of sun creams has revealed products from three popular brands which failed to provide the protection they claim.

Using strict British Standard tests, we looked at 15 sun creams from major brands and retailers with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 and measured their SPF and UVA ultraviolet radiation protection. Three products failed to live up to manufacturers’ claims and were branded as “don’t buys” in our investigation.

Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid SPF30 150ml, Malibu Protective Lotion SPF30 200ml and Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection Ultra Radiance Sun Lotion SPF30 200ml all had results lower than SPF 25, despite claiming an SPF of 30. We retested a second batch of each of these sun creams but they still didn’t pass strict British Standard tests.

According to EU recommendations sun creams should offer a UVA protection factor that is a third of their SPF value.  Malibu Protective Lotion SPF30 200ml was the only sun cream that also failed our UVA protection tests with a UVA protection factor below 10.

Our research also suggests that spending more money doesn’t guarantee you’ll get better protection. Calypso Sun Lotion SPF30 250ml was the cheapest sun cream on test, costing £1.20 per 100ml, and passed both British Standard tests. Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid SPF30, which failed our SPF test, was the most expensive sun cream tested at £11.30 per 100ml.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“With thousands of cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year, it’s vital you can trust a sun cream to provide the protection it claims. We’ve found three products that failed the strict British Standard tests and we want to see manufacturers doing much more to make sure their sun creams live up to the claims on the packaging.” 

Notes to editors

1.    We looked at 15 sun creams from major brands and retailers with a claimed SPF of 30 and, using British Standard tests, measured them on their SPF and UVA protection.

2.    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.

3.    Sunscreen test results can be found here.

4.    To view the magazine article click here.

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