Nivea defends under-fire sunscreen, points to possible user error

Consumer New Zealand says it has serious concerns with Australasian sunblock testing standards after a two-year-old boy was left with second degree burns.

A Paraparaumu toddler was left with burns and blisters on his face and ears after using a Nivea sun screen.

A number of other people have also contacted Newshub to say they have also been badly burned after using the "50+ Protect and Moisturise" suncream.

(Supplied/Mikayla Brown)
(Supplied/Mikayla Brown)

However Nivea is standing by its product, saying the sunblock meets the Australia and New Zealand industry standards.

It also says it is following up with those who have been affected to better understand the circumstances. The company says it will also give affected customers advice and help to "ensure it doesn't occur again".

The company says its new "improved formula" has been rigorously tested.

Instead, the issue is likely down to user error, Nivea says, with people not applying enough or as frequently as they should.

"Complaints regarding ineffective sunscreens can often be the result of inaccurate application - we know that most people do not apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen," a spokesperson told Newshub.

"All of Nivea's education programmes advise sunscreen use as one of many protective measures.

"No sunscreen can ever provide full protection, and all of Nivea's education programmes advise sunscreen in combination with sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat that protects the face, head, neck and ears, seeking shade especially between 10am-2pm and to wear sunglasses."

But Consumer NZ chief executive Sue Chetwin says there is next to no regulation in the New Zealand market.

"We've been calling for [regulation] for years. In New Zealand, the sunscreen industry is pretty much unregulated. In Australia, all sunscreens need to meet the Australia New Zealand code. Here it is voluntary."

However most sunscreens do meet the Australia and New Zealand standard voluntarily.

She says there's no one making sure products continue to meet industry standards, year after year.

"One thing we have a concern about is that there doesn't seem to be anybody really testing the testers. That is that the testing agencies aren't very closely looked at.

"And also, the actual certification of our sunscreens, it is done very rarely so one certificate that we looked at was more than five years old so who would know if the formula had changed overtime or not."

In 2014 Consumer NZ arranged its own testing of sunscreens, including Nivea's 50+ child product.

"It passed our SPF test and our broad spectrum test so we thought it was a pretty good product," Ms Chetwin says.

But that is no consolation for Carter's mum, who is hoping her child's burns won't scar his two-year-old face forever.

Anyone who wants to make a complaint or enquiry can contact Nivea via an online form.