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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 09:47 GMT 10:47 UK
Tests cast doubt on sunscreens
Woman applying sunscreen
The magazine tested 15 sunscreens
Some of the UK's most popular sunscreens may not be as effective as they claim to be, a report suggests.

Researchers at Which? magazine tested 15 leading creams, with sun protection factors of between 15 and 30.

They found that some provided less protection than they claimed while others did not block out damaging UVA rays as effectively as they claimed.

However, manufacturers have rejected the findings saying the tests were unreliable and misleading.

Leading brands

The researchers tested leading creams from high street chemists Boots and Superdrug and others from cosmetics firms, including Simple and Nivea.

They found that Boots' Soltan 12-hour moisturising sun lotion provided a SPF of 10, compared to 15 advertised on the bottle.

Superdrug's Solait lotion was found to have a SPF of 11, not the 15 it claimed.

Simple's sun protection lotion had a SPF of nine, compared to the 15 it claimed.

The researchers also carried out tests to see how effective some sunscreens were at protecting against UVA rays, that can contribute to skin cancer and aging.

A children's sun spray from Nivea claimed a UVA star rating of three. However, tests suggested it was actually two.

Suprerdrug's Solait green sun protection spray had a UVA star rating of four. But again tests suggested it was just three.

Malcolm Coles, editor of Which?, called on manufacturers to carry out better tests on their products.

"The SPF on the label should reflect the lower end of the range, so people aren't putting themselves at risk.

"Manufacturers need to work on more robust test methods to reduce inconsistencies and ensure we're getting the protection we're promised."

'Grossly misleading'

However, high street chemists have attacked the findings.

Mike Brown, suncare scientific adviser at Boots, denounced the report as "grossly misleading".

"As a responsible retailer and manufacturer of suncare we have the utmost confidence in Soltan.

"We have re-tested Soltan SPF 15 Lotion and this confirmed the original test result of SPF 15.

"We would like to take this opportunity to reassure our customers that we are confident Soltan SPF 15 protects them at the correct level.

"We understand from conversations with the Consumers' Association that they used a piece of equipment that we have found unreliable in the past for their testing."

In a statement, Superdrug also rejected the findings.

"The safety of our customers is paramount and we operate a strict safety testing policy for all Superdrug Solait sun protection products," it said.

"As soon as Which? made us aware of the alleged problem with our Solait SPF15 Sun Lotion and SPF30 Kids' Sun Spray, we immediately conducted further independent tests, at several different reputable test houses.

"The results of these independent tests confirm that both our products meet their claimed SPF and star rating - results clearly in contrast to those published by Which?"

Sunscreen test results
Brand SPF Claimed Which? SPF UVA Claimed Which? UVA Overall Which? Rating
Ambre Solaire 15 18 *** *** Good
Boots Soltan 15 10 ***** ***** Poor
Delph 15 12 **** **** Fair
Hawaiin Tropic 15 13 **** **** Good
Lancaster 15 15 None ** Good
Lancome 15 17 None *** Good
Nivea Sun 16 18 *** *** Good
Piz Buin 15 19 *** *** Good
Simple 15 9 **** *** Poor
Superdrug Solait 15 11 **** **** Poor
Ambre Solaire Kids 30 31 **** **** Very good
Boots Soltan Kids 30 33 ***** ***** Very good
Nivea Sun Kids 30 34 *** ** Poor
Sainsbury's Blue Parrot 30 28 **** **** Good
Superdrug Solait Kids 30 27 **** *** Good
Source: Which?

Children's sun creams fail tests
22 Jun 04  |  Health
Sun lotions 'are not effective'
29 Sep 03  |  Health
UK lags behind on sun cream use
06 Aug 03  |  Health

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