Sunscreens in the shade

by Mike Isle

Ahead of what is already stacking up to be a long hot summer when Selwyn’s beaches and rivers will be major attractions, Consumer NZ has found that six out of ten New Zealand sunscreens tested don’t stack up.

Consumer NZ chief executive, Sue Chetwin, said six products didn’t provide the sun protection claimed.

One product — Coola Classic Body Sunscreen Plumeria SPF30 — only gave low protection of SPF6 in Consumer NZ’s test, despite claiming high protection of SPF30.

The other five products were labelled as SPF50 or SPF50+, but Consumer NZ’s test found they did not meet these claims, returning SPFs from 16 to 42.

“While these SPF ratings mean the sunscreens still provide moderate or high protection, our testing found they don’t provide the protection claimed on the label,” Ms Chetwin said.

Four of the companies, including Coola, provided lab reports showing their products had been tested and met their label claims. However, two reports were from 2015 and Coola’s report was from 2013. In response to Consumer NZ’s findings, Coola is commissioning a review of its formula.

“There’s no requirement for sunscreen manufacturers to regularly test. The Ministry of Health said it is working on legislation to regulate therapeutic products, but no decision has been made on whether it will include sunscreens.

“This legislation provides an opportunity to finally make the sunscreen standard mandatory.”

Sun safety tips

  • Look for sunscreens with an SPF of at least 30+, plus water resistance and broad-spectrum protection
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside
  • Apply plenty — about one teaspoonful (5ml) for each arm, each leg, your back, your front and your face (which includes your neck and ears). That adds up to about 35ml for a full-body application
  • Ignore ‘once-a-day’ claims. Sunscreen should be reapplied often — every two hours you’re outside
  • Mopping up sweat or towelling dry reduces protection: apply another coat of sunscreen immediately
  • Sunscreen is only one part of your defence. Cover up with suitable clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

— Courtesy Consumer NZ