Don't get burnt by misleading sun screensSome fail to offer the sun protection they claim

01 July 2006

Some sun screens don't offer the protection they claim and could put your health at risk, Which? warns today.

We've found that you get what you pay for when it comes to sun screens and while expensive products excelled in our tests, some cheaper products failed to live up to their claims.

In the industry standard tests carried out for Which?, four sun screens labelled as sun protection factor (SPF) 15 failed to live up to the claim.

Malibu and Wilkinsons were particularly poor, giving protection of only SPF6.9 and SPF6.3 respectively. Boots Soltan (SPF8.7) and Asda (SPF11.5) also failed although Asda has since replaced the product we tested with a new formulation.

These failures could have serious health implications. An SPF of 15 gives more than 90 per cent protection against UVB rays, but if the SPF is actually much lower, people could risk damaging their skin by unknowingly soaking up too much sun.

Too much sun

All of the manufacturers whose products failed the tests disputed the findings, claiming they contradicted the results of their own tests.

Which? also tested Tesco's SPF15 Sun Protection Lotion, which was supplied by the supermarket but wasn't yet available in the shops, and found it had an SPF of just 9.2.

Tesco had reached the same conclusion as Which? in its own tests and had re-labelled the product before selling it as SPF8.

Which? wants other manufacturers to take these findings seriously and re-label, reformulate or withdraw their products.

Nigel Strick, Chairman of the Trading Standards Institute, says: 'At the moment, consumers have no guarantee about a sun screen from its label. This means, despite using sun screens properly, they can still be at risk. There must be clear and consistent laws, with criminal sanctions, to control these products and protect the public.'

Best Buys

Which? Editor Neil Fowler says: 'As well as asking trading standards to investigate our findings, we're also demanding that government departments strengthen the regulations on sun screen testing.

'At the moment, the best way to be sure you're getting proper protection is to choose one of our Best Buy products.'

To pass the Which? UVB test, the SPF15 labelled sun screens had to have an average SPF of at least 12. This allows for variations between volunteers and the difficulty of measuring skin redness.

The Best Buy products all cost upward of GBP 10 and exceeded SPF15. They are:

  • Garnier Ambre Solaire Moisturising Protection Milk (SPF 18.1)
  • Lancome Soleil Soft-Touch Moisturising Sun Lotion (SPF 16.7)
  • L'Oreal Solar Expertise Advanced Protection Lotion (SPF 17.8)
  • Piz Buin In Sun (SPF rating 17.5)