What sunblock should I use? Consumer NZ releases its guide for this summer

Publish Date
Tuesday, 19 December 2023, 2:05PM
Sunscreen is essential in NZ's harsh summer sun - Consumer NZ's new sunscreen database lets you compare products across numerous aspects. Photo / 123R

Sunscreen is essential in NZ's harsh summer sun - Consumer NZ's new sunscreen database lets you compare products across numerous aspects. Photo / 123R

It’s finally starting to feel like summer - and if your Christmas holiday plans include a trip to the beach, camping in the great outdoors or lounging in the sun by a pool, it’s time to top up your sunscreen stash.

We all know it’s important to wear sunscreen all year round, but at this time of year, the risk of getting sunburnt is even higher, so how do you know your sunscreen is doing enough to keep you protected?

New regulations under the Fair Trading Act 1986 mean that in New Zealand, all primary sunscreens and insect repellents with an SPF of 4 or higher must be consistently and regularly tested to make sure they’re effective and must include clear guidelines about the SPF label and directions on how to apply them.

Watchdog Consumer NZ normally tests and ranks sunscreens each year - but this year they’ve instead launched a database on their website with information about 102 different sun protection products, from price and SPF rating to where they were made.

Rather than ranking each brand, they’ve instead put them in alphabetical order, allowing consumers to check out a range of brands from Cancer Society of NZ to Le Tan and Woolworths to see whether they include broad-spectrum protection, are safe for or marketed to children, and are a spray, lotion or cream.

Consumer NZ research and test writer Belinda Castles says that despite the new regulations, companies often rely on old testing information to meet the standards on their labels.

“We don’t think this is good enough for a product that needs to protect us from the sun’s harmful UV rays,” Castles says.

Consumer NZ asked more than 90 companies selling sunscreen in New Zealand how often and where their products are being tested, and 30 responded with up-to-date information.

“Until now, it has been impossible for consumers to know when or where a product was tested. We have designed and created this database to give New Zealanders the information they want and need,” Castles says.

Several companies did not provide information for the database and referred Consumer to industry body Cosmetics NZ.

Cosmetic NZ general manager Martha van Arts says most of the information is already available to the public and she reiterates that all sunscreens on sale in New Zealand must comply with the new regulations.

With countless options on the market, how do you choose the right sunscreen for protection this summer? Photo / 123rf

“Whether a sunscreen is a global brand or independent brand with small distribution, it must be tested for safety and efficacy, specifically with regards to SPF claims,” she adds.

In October this year, van Arts told Viva beauty editor Ash Cometti that when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen, you should buy whichever one you’ll actually use.

“It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you use it. Put a hat on, sunglasses on, wear a T-shirt and sit in the shade. Sunscreen is only part of sun safety.”

The Cancer Society recommends selecting a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least SPF30 - so before you head off on holiday, make sure you add one to your beach bag.

This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.

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