Our latest test found a sunscreen that fell short of its SPF claim. How can this still happen, asks Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith?
The era is over when we all blithely slapped on a bit of sunscreen before we roasted ourselves and then treated the burns with calamine lotion. Each year, 100,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the UK. Cases of the deadliest form – melanoma – have risen by 360% since the late 1970s. Cancer specialists think this is partly due to more of us holidaying abroad.
But awareness of the link between sun exposure and skin cancer has also, thankfully, increased. Most of us are now mindful of the need for proper sun protection, including what to look for in a sunscreen. When we asked you what you consider first when buying one, 85% of you told us the product’s sun protection factor (SPF) was key.
It’s crucial that the SPF claims on sunscreens are correct. And in our latest test of 15 sunscreens that claim to offer SPF30, I’m happy to say that the vast majority were. However, we did uncover some questionable claims, including one Don’t Buy sunscreen that our tests showed offered significantly less than its claimed level of protection. This was a Hawaiian Tropic product – and it’s the third year running that a sunscreen from this brand has failed our SPF test. How can this still be allowed?
Another worrying trend is the advent of once-a-day sunscreens. These are banned in Australia, where anything that leads you to believe that sunscreens don’t need to be regularly reapplied is forbidden. We don’t think they should be allowed over here, either. How can applying any sunscreen just once keep you well enough protected for a whole day? In fact, at the end of our tests of these particular products we discovered an average 74% decrease in SPF protection.
The SPF figure is not a vague bit of marketing puff. It’s a specific claim about how long the product could protect you in the sun, and there is absolutely no excuse for it not to be accurate.
We’ve been testing sunscreens for years now. So it beggars belief that there are still products not meeting their SPF claims. The very least we can expect is sunscreen labels we can rely on.
Discover our latest sunscreen Best Buys and, more importantly, which to avoid.