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Popular sunscreens failing to live up to sun protection claims, consumer organisation Which? reveals

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Popular sunscreens – including a leading children’s sun lotion – are failing to meet their SPF and UVA claims in Which? tests.

As people head out to enjoy the great outdoors this summer, it is important for everyone, especially children whose skin is more sensitive than adult skin, to protect their skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays that could lead to skin damage and cause skin cancer. But worryingly, Which? tests of high street sunscreens found some big brand products that did not live up to their claims.

The consumer champion tested 15 branded and own-label sunscreens, including 11 SPF30 adult products and four SPF50 kids sun creams, assessing their SPF and UVA performance, as well as how easy they were to apply.

While most passed Which?’s tests, two products – Garnier’s Ambre Solaire Clear Protect Spray SPF30 (£7) and Nivea’s Kids Protect & Care SPF50+ Spray (£6) – both failed at least one key protection test and have been labelled Which? “Don’t Buy” products.

Sun Protection Factor (SPF), which shows how much a product protects against UVB rays, is one of the most important considerations when buying sunscreen, especially for young children who tend to have more sensitive skin compared to adults.

Shockingly, Nivea’s Kids Protect & Care SPF50+ failed Which?’s SPF test, falling far short of the SPF50 claim on the bottle. A further test on a second sample found the measured SPF was even lower.

In addition to SPF, consumers should also pay attention to the protection sunscreens provide against UVA rays, which can lead to premature ageing along with skin cancer. This is usually indicated with a UVA seal – a circle with ‘UVA’ inside it – which shows that it meets the EU recommendations for UVA sun protection, or the Boots UVA star rating system used to indicate a higher level of UVA protection.

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Although it passed the SPF test, Garnier’s Ambre Solaire Clear Protect Spray SPF30 failed Which?’s UVA tests twice. While the results were close to the minimum required for it to pass, it did not quite make the grade.

Thirteen other own-label and branded sunscreen products passed all Which? tests, including Asda’s Protect Cooling Clear Sun Mist SPF 30 (£3.50) and Boots Soltan Kids Protect & Moisturise Suncare Lotion SPF50+(£4) which were among the cheapest of all the products.

Harry Rose, Which? Magazine Editor, said: “Whether you’re finally off on holiday or staying at home this summer, it’s important to stock up on sunscreen to keep your skin protected from harmful rays. But our research shows consumers cannot always trust that these essential products will provide the level of protection they expect for themselves and their children.

“It is concerning that two sunscreens from respected brands have failed Which?’s tests. We would advise consumers not to buy these products as there are alternatives available that are both cheaper and performed better when we tested them.”

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What the manufacturers say

A L’Oreal (makers of Garnier Ambre Solaire) spokesperson said it disputes Which?’s findings. It has run independent tests of the UVA properties of the product which show that it passes the tests, complies with all applicable standards and provides proper sun protection for consumers.

It also said: “Garnier Ambre Solaire has been the expert at suncare innovation for over 85 years and is the only suncare brand with research recognised by the British Skin Foundation. We take product efficacy very seriously. Our UVA claims are supported by robust photoprotection testing carried out independently under ISO standard ISO 24443:2012 and meet the requirements of the European Recommendation for sun protection products. Given this, we are very surprised by the Which? results and have requested a meeting with the Which? researchers so our scientists can take them through our test results which confirm the efficacy of this product.”

A Beiersdorf (makers of Nivea) spokesperson said: “The safety of our products is of utmost importance. Nivea Sun prides itself on its decades of experience in sun care and is dedicated to developing products that reliably and effectively protect against sun damage. When this product was independently tested in 2019 it achieved an SPF of 62. When we re-checked this batch, the result was a UVA protection factor of 25.8. Based on this data and our comprehensive quality requirements, we disagree with the reported Which? findings.”

(Lead image: Which?)

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