Don't get burnt: Which sunscreen products can you trust?

Nivea, Neutrogena, Cancer Society, Banana Boat sunscreen available at New Zealand supermarkets
There is no common standard that sunscreen brands adhere to (Newshub.)

Melanoma New Zealand is calling for a minimum standard of sunscreen introduced in New Zealand after a wave of concern around sunblock quality.

Newshub has received a wave of complaints, mostly regarding the Nivea Improved Formula Protect and Moisture product, since it broke the story of a two-year-old left with second degree burns.

Melanoma NZ chief executive Linda Flay says they would like to see a minimum standard - but also regular testing of each product.

"Our view is that some level of regulation would be beneficial so that sunscreen products actually do what they say they do.

"[Also] a level of auditing of the labs that actually do the testing. Because the outcome of the tests is only as good as the lab that it is being tested in."

Ms Flay says that while it is difficult to know which sunscreens are best, consumers can be reassured that products that comply with the Australian-New Zealand Standard have been rigourously tested.

"It's a minefield really. It is difficult to test the sunscreen in the same way that it is used.

"Consumers need to know a sunscreen is going to do what it says on the label and that they apply it accordingly."

In New Zealand there is no minimum standard for sunscreen. It is voluntary to adhere to the Australia New Zealand Standard (AS/NZ) so Newshub went to investigate just which sunscreens adhere to which standards.

Nivea protect and moisture 50+ sunscreen
Newshub has had a number of complaints about Nivea protect and moisturise sunscreen (Newshub.)

All of Nivea sunscreen products pictured comply with AS/NZ standard. 

  • Nivea Protect and Moisturise 50+
  • Nivea Protect and Moisturise 15+/30+ Spray
  • Nivea Protect and Light Feel 50+
Neutrogena sunscreen products
Neutrogena sunscreen does not adhere to the AS/NZ standard (Newshub.)

None of the Neutrogena sunscreen products complied with the AS/NZ Standard. Two of the lotions advertise as being the number one 'dermatologist recommended' suncare product while the other displays a small logo of the Australian Skin and Cancer Foundation. However the bottle also states that Neutrogena sponsors the foundation's testing.

  • Neutrogena Sport SPF70 - #1 dermatologically recommended
  • Neutrogena Beach Defence SPF50 - Skin Can Foundation Australia approved, sponsored by Neutrogena
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer SPF85+ - #1 dermatologically recommended
Cancer society sunscreen
All Cancer Society sunscreens Newshub looked at, complied with the AS/NZ sunscreen (Newshub.)

All Cancer Society products adhere to the AS/NZ standard as well as advertise as being dermatologically approved.

  • Cancer Society Kids Pure 50+ - AS/NZ Standard, dermatologically approved
  • Cancer Society Everyday 50+ - AS/NZ Standard, dermatologically approved
  • Cancer Society Invisible Protect SPF50+ - AS/NZ Standard, dermatologically approved
Banana boat sunscreen
Banana Boat does not appear to have been independently tested (Newshub.)

Banana Boat sunscreens do not advertise as adhering to any standard however they do have the endorsement of either the US or International Skin Cancer Foundation.

  • Banana Boat Everyday 50+ - Recommended by the International Skin Cancer Foundation
  • Banana Boat Sun Comfort 50+ - Recommended by US Skin Cancer Foundation
  • Banana Boat Kids 50+ Spray - Recommended by US Skin Cancer Foundation

More than 4000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year in New Zealand, one of the highest rates in the world.

While Ms Flay says there is only a small amount of evidence that proves sunscreen is successful in preventing melanoma, but she says every bit helps.

"Sunscreen is only one of those things, it shouldn't be used as the only sun protection measure. That is important to stress."

It was important to correctly apply sunscreen - and using it along with other forms of sun protection including wearing a hat and staying in the shade during the hottest parts of the day.

Claims of UV protection are covered by the Consumer Guarantees Act which ensures products adhere to the claims they are making on the packaging.