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Is SPF50+ really SPF50+?


It’s 2019! Happy New Year and happy holidays!

We still have a couple of weeks of school holidays and almost two months of Summer left – we want you to enjoy it while you make the most of the great Australian outdoors.

The Coola Cozzies family is all too aware of the harmful effects of the Australian sun, so we want to know that our choice of sunscreen is going to do everything the label promises it will.

We recently researched sunscreens to find out a bit more about which brands are the best and why.

Choice, Australia’s leading consumer advocacy group, tested a small sample of SPF 50+ sunscreens, this is what they discovered:

  • In many countries sunscreen is treated like a cosmetic, however in Australia it’s regulated like a medicine.
  • Manufacturers have to have their sunscreen listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration and as such the product has to be tested to ensure it meets its SPF claim.
  • Choice tested six SPF50+ sunscreens and found four didn’t meet their SPF claim.Test results were so varied that the actual testing itself needed to be considered, as different labs concluded different results. One product sent to five different labs, was rated a different SPF by each lab, none reported SPF100 (which is what the product claimed).
  • Manufacturers also had variances affecting their SPF claims including different batches and storage conditions.

Cancer Council Classic Zinc and Nivea Sun Kids Caring roll-on were the only two products that met their SPF50+ claim.

(Image source: Choice and The Sydney Morning Herald)

Canstar, the number one rated comparison site in Australia, reviewed 10 brands of sunscreens. They did not list if they were SPF50+. The review included criteria such as effectiveness, texture, value for money, absorption, smell, and overall satisfaction. Le Tan came out on top in 2018 for sunscreen. Given this review was not scientific, it comes back to making sure you are doing more than just applying sunscreen 20 minutes before exposure. Here are some important tips to follow:

  • How sunscreen is used directly relates to its impact or effectiveness. According to Choice, “apply liberally”, which is often the instruction on the packaging, is not enough of a guide:
    • Aim for:
      1 teaspoon for head and neck
      2 teaspoons for the torso
      1 teaspoon for each arm and each leg
  • Apply 15-30 minutes before going in the sun
  • Reapply every two hours, irrespective of any “4 hour protection” claim on packaging
  • Check the expiry date or ideally replace the product every year
  • Store it below 30C, so do not leave it in your glove box for convenience

Always do more than just sunscreen when it comes to your sun safety: hat, sunglasses, shade and consider your swimwear, such as a long sleeve rashie and board shorts.

Have fun sun-safely this Summer!

Information Sources:

  • Choice: SPF50+ sunscreens put to the test. K. Bray 13 Feb 2018
  • Choice: How To buy and use sunscreen. K. Bray
  • Canstar: Sunscreen Reviews & Ratings 2018

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