The shocking truth about your sunscreen

With skin cancer such as real and present danger for Australians, we have learned pretty quickly the importance of doing

With skin cancer such as real and present danger for Australians, we have learned pretty quickly the importance of doing the right thing – slip, slop, slapping.

But what if our best efforts are actually letting us down?

Consumer watchdog Choice has found that as many as four in six sunscreens don’t live up to the claims they make, which could put us all at risk.

Choice tested six sunscreens that claimed a sun protection factor of 50+ (SPF50+) and found that only two of the products actually delivered that result.

Products tested included general purpose, sports and kids’ sunscreens.

Only two met the label claim of 50+ – Cancer Council Classic 50+ and Nivea Sun Kids SPF50+.

Meanwhile, Banana Boat Baby SPF50+, Banana Boat Sport 50+ and Ombra Kids 50+ by Aldi all achieved results over 35, making them high SPF (although not meeting the claim of 50).

The worst performer was Ego SunSense Sport 50+, which only provided SPF of 29 when tested by Choice.

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Choice reports that the water resistance claims of some products are also in question:

“We didn’t test these products for water resistance, though all products claim four hours’ water resistance. However, we did obtain water resistance testing results for (Aldi’s) Ombra Everyday SPF 50+ Sunscreen, which has the same formulation as the Ombra Kids SPF 50+ Roll-on that we found to have an SPF of 36. The SPF after four hours of water testing reduced to 23. Unfortunately, this doesn’t meet the minimum SPF 30 required to claim four hours’ water resistance.”

In Australia, sunscreens are regulated as medicines (as opposed to cosmetics). To be sold, they must be listed with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and in order to be listed, manufacturers have to test the product according to the Australian Standard to ensure it meets its claimed SPF (sun protection factor).

Choice was tipped off that some sunscreens didn’t meet their SPF claims and decided to put some to the test. The consumer organisation has produced this sunscreen guide to help you choose the best option.

Are you shocked to learn that your sunscreen may not be as effective as you thought? Have you ever been burnt when you thought you were covered? How do you cover up?


  1. I do a lot of fly fishing on the flats so that means I’m out in the sun with no shade for up to 10 hours a day. So one is continuously exposed to the sun coming down at you and coming up at you off the water and/or the white coral sands.

    I am of Irish decent so have the fair complexion and after growing up in the tropics have had hundreds of SCCs and BCCs removed. The worst was the fluorouracil treatment to my face which kills the SCC/BCC cells and in doing so all of the skin on the face is defoliated. Not pleasant but, fixed the problem.

    So, how do I approach protection? With SPF50 clothes.

    These days I wear duck billed cap, Buff, GoSo shirt and gloves and lightweight polyester long trousers. The only place which is exposed is the 20mm strip across my forehead between my sunglasses and cap and it gets a good dose of Bronze Zinc.

    After a week’s fishing like that I get a very very light tan.

    So now I have approx. 10 plus GoSo shirts, 7 Buffs, 5 pairs of GoSo gloves. The shirts I wear all of the time whether I’m fishing or not. The lite coloured ones get soaked in nappysan prior to each wash. The only time I don’t wear them is when I’m travelling and then I wear SPF50 fishing shirts with all of the pockets as I find them cooler when driving long distances and travelling on aircraft.

    When something better comes along I may change but, in the meantime I’m happy and so is my skin cancer doctor. B|

  2. Glad to see someone is keeping them honest. I wonder whatever happened to the truth, there doesn’t seem to be much of it around these days. And also taking money under false pretences.

  3. I am lucky as I have an olive complexion and have never had sunburn in all my life…even so I stay out of the sun and wear a hat when outdoors 🌸

  4. The original zinc based sunscreen was better than the stuff around today – thats more harmful on the skin than people think. It is harder t spead so its not popular but it a lot safer. As a red head I havent worn sunscreen for years and didnt have it when growing up – no signs of sun cancers etc….people should use common sense and cover up if exposed all day in the sun – simple.

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  6. I don’t rely on sunscreen too much. I wear long sleeves and a hat when out in the sun for any length of time.

  7. wonder why they didn’t test Zinc sunscreen. i think it would have a very good water resistance factor at least.

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