Sunscreen Test Fail - Three Things You Need To Know

CHOICE, the leading consumer advocacy group in Australia, recently released the results from their sunscreen SPF test.  The results alarmed sun conscious Australians, which was evident by the level of press coverage and social media activity.  In just over 48 hours the Choice Facebook post was shared over 10,000 times, had over 2,200 Likes and hundreds of comments; and a personal comment I wrote received over 450 Likes.
In the CHOICE article, six SPF50+ sunscreens were independently tested to see if they live up to their SPF claims.  Surprisingly, only 2 of the 6 sunscreens tested had the same SPF in testing as was claimed on their labels.  We find this fact quite alarming.  Read the full article here.


To understand people’s concerns I spent the weekend in front of my computer screen and read over 1,000 comments!  What I read concerned me as much as the test results.  The level of misinformation and misunderstanding on the properties of sunscreen and its role in protecting us from UV exposure is alarming. 


It’s not all our fault.  Marketing hype and misleading labelling; as well as confusion between temperature and UV were the main topics that people raised. 

These are the Three Things You Need to Know about sunscreen and UV

  1. Misleading 4+ Hours Water Resistant Label 
    The prominent 4+ Water Resistant label on many sunscreen packaging has led people to believe that sunscreen only needs to be reapplied every 4 hours.  This declaration is very misleading because if you refer to the back of the pack, the manufactures recommend reapplying sunscreen every 2 hours OR after swimming, exercise or towel drying.

    TIP: For sunscreen to have a chance at being effective it needs to be reapplied liberally at LEAST every 2 hours OR after swimming, perspiring or towel drying.  Our family uses sundicators to accurately track our sunscreen’s performance and depending on our activity and the UV reading, and in summer we can be reapplying sunscreen every hour!
  2. Your Mantra - Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide
    We think the Cancer Council’s iconic sun protection campaign – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide - could be the perfect Aussie mantra.  Slopping on sunscreen is just one element in our sun protection arsenal and it shouldn’t be used as the primary defence against burning and skin damage.

    - Slip
    on a shirt with sleeves – avoid singlets or strappy dresses – and wear a UPF50+ rash shirt when swimming.
    - They say Slop on sunscreen for a reason and our advice is to be generous and always use SPF30 or SPF50+!  It is recommended that one teaspoon of sunscreen is used per limb.  Lather it on at least 15 min before going outside so it can be absorbed – any shorter time and it may not be as effective or many wash off more quickly.  
    Slap on a broad brimmed hat. Caps don’t protect the ears or back of neck. 
    Seek shade where possible and avoid being in the sun for prolonged periods between the highest UV part of the day – usually 10am – 2pm.
    Slide on sunnies to protect your eyes and look cool at the same time!
  3. UV, not Heat does the damage
    Contrary to popular misconception it’s the invisible UVA and UVB rays, and not heat, that causes skin damage.  Both UV rays are harmful, with UVA rays being responsible for skin ageing and UVB rays being the reason we burn.  When you think about sunburn, you automatically think of hot sunny days, but UV is often as high on cloudy days. 

    TIP: Don’t be fooled by cloudy days.  If you’re not sure about your local UV, use the Cancer Council’s SunSmart app or consult your local weather forecast to see what the predicted UV rating will be. Or, you could use something innovative and fun for kids like sundicators, to track your daily UV exposure and remind you when to reapply sunscreen and stay out of the sun.

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