Sunscreen brands fail protection test, says consumer watchdog

In collaboration with the Press Association

Three sunscreens from popular brands do not provide the protection they claim, according to tests by consumer watchdog Which?

"Don’t forget to spend time in the shade and cover up with clothing, a hat and sunglasses" - ​Sarah Williams, Cancer Research UK

The three sunscreens, all of which claimed to have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30, were Piz Buin Ultra-Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid 150ml, Malibu Protective Lotion 200ml and Hawaiian Tropic Satin Protection Ultra Radiance Sun Lotion SPF30 200ml.

Which? found they all had results lower than SPF 25.

The consumer group has branded the creams as "don't buys" in its investigation, which used British Standard tests to check 15 different products.

A second round of testing produced the same results, Which? said.

The sunscreens tested are designed to protect against two types of ultraviolet radiation: UVA and UVB.

Both types can raise the risk of skin cancer, although UVB is the main cause of sunburn and UVA has been linked to premature ageing of the skin.

EU recommendations say sun creams should offer a UVA protection factor that is a third of their SPF value.

Which? said Malibu Protective Lotion SPF30 200ml was the only sun cream that also failed the UVA protection tests with a UVA protection factor below 10.

The study also found that the more expensive creams did not guarantee better protection.

Calypso Sun Lotion SPF30 250ml was the cheapest product on test, costing £1.20 per 100ml, and passed both British Standard tests.

Piz Buin Ultra Light Dry Touch Sun Fluid SPF30, which failed the SPF test, was the most expensive product tested at £11.30 per 100ml.

Sarah Williams, health information officer at Cancer Research UK, said it was important that consumers could trust the information on sunscreen bottles.

“But the good news from this report is that price and whether the sunscreen was a fashionable brand didn’t matter,” she added.

However she stressed that sunscreen shouldn’t be people’s first line of defence against the sun.

“Sunscreens can be useful to help protect your skin, but don’t forget that the best ways to protect yourself when the sun is strong are to spend time in the shade and cover up with clothing, a hat and sunglasses. Sunscreens are useful for protecting the parts you can’t cover – use one with at least SPF 15 and a high star rating,” she said.

People should make sure they put on enough sunscreen, she said.

“That means two teaspoons for your face and arms, and reapply regularly as it’s easily rubbed and sweated off.”

Copyright Press Association 2014