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Does your sunscreen do what it says on the pack?

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
woman tanning

18th May 2017 – Tests on some of the most popular sunscreens on the UK market have revealed one product that failed to live up to its marketing claims, according to a consumers' magazine.

Which? assessed 14 sunscreens from high street and popular brands and found that 1 of them – Avon's Sun+Multi Protection Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30 – failed to offer the protection it claimed in its own tests.

The other 13 products, which included popular brands such as Hawaiian, Boots and Nivea, passed the British Standard SPF and UVA tests.

Most expensive

Despite being the most expensive sunscreen in the batch tested at £10 for 150ml, the Avon sun lotion has been labelled a Which? 'don't buy'.

The magazine says it offers a lower sun protection factor (SPF) than the claimed 30.

Each test involved applying a small amount of sunscreen to the backs of 10 volunteers. UV lamp, simulating the sun's rays, is then directed onto the area. Recordings are taken when the skin turns red both with and without sunscreen.

According to Which?, when it told Avon about the results, they said they were confident that its own testing was accurate based on internationally recognised protocols carried out by external laboratories.


The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) said it was concerned that the test results would alarm consumers and might even put them off buying sunscreen.

Chris Flower, director general of the CTPA, says in a statement: "We are very concerned that in seeking to call into question the efficacy of sunscreens and the way that they are regulated, Which? may discourage consumers from using them, and they might miss out on the important sun protection these provide."

He adds: "We would like to reassure consumers, categorically, that they can trust the SPF of their sunscreens. In contrast to the one-off testing carried out by Which?, cosmetics companies don’t just rely on one phase of testing to determine the SPF number, but test sunscreens at various stages of their development to ensure they get consistent, proven results throughout."

More frequent testing

Which? has been testing the effectiveness of sunscreens for several years and has campaigned for products to live up to the claims made by manufacturers.

It is calling for products to be tested more frequently, the addition of a 'use by' date and the removal of claims about water resistance.

Last year, Which? warned sun-lovers to be wary about believing that once-a-day sunscreens will protect them from a full day's exposure to the sun. It found that over the course of a day, an SPF of 30 could effectively be reduced to just 8, exposing the user to an increased risk of skin cancer.

Reviewed on May 18, 2017

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