The surprising truth about sunscreen

Expensive suncreams perform less well than cheaper brands in independent testing

A woman sunbathes on the beach
Consumer experts’ advice is not to waste your money or take any unnecessary risks
(Image credit: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

Expensive sunscreen is not more effective than cheap supermarket brands, according to a new report from Which?.

An investigation by the consumer watchdog found that mineral-based suncreams, which often sit on the expensive end of the price spectrum, are less effective than cheaper chemical-based high street brands.

Mineral-based suncreams are said to be better for sensitive skin and less environmentally harmful, but the study found they are not meeting their primary purpose.

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Mineral sunscreens among ‘least effective’

Which? tested five mineral SPF30 sunscreens and found that none offered the level of protection it claimed.

The report named Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Lotion (125ml), which sells for £26, one of the “least effective” given that it didn’t even deliver a third of the sun protection factor (SPF) it claimed in tests.

Tropic Skin Shade Sun Cream (200ml), which retails for £28, did not match its SPF factor either, earning it a “don’t buy” label from the consumer insight group. Co-owned by Lord Sugar and Susie Ma, a former contestant on The Apprentice, the product barely provided a third of its claimed SPF30.

Cheaper brands given thumbs up

Cheaper brands, however, were found to match their sun protection claims. Supermarket sunscreens given the thumbs up included Asda’s Protect Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF30 (200ml) for £2.80, Morrisons’ Sun Protect & Nourish Sun Spray SPF30 (200ml) for £3.50 and Superdrug’s Solait Moisturising Sun Cream spray SPF30 (200ml) for £5.49.

Revealing the results on the hottest day of the year, with temperatures forecast to reach a record 36C for June, Which? said: “With many parts of Britain basking in a heatwave, it is important for everyone to protect themselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays that could lead to skin damage and even cause skin cancer.

“But Which? tests of popular sunscreens found some do not live up to their SPF claims and therefore do not offer adequate sun protection, meaning people using them could unwittingly put themselves at risk.”

Several of the brands, including Clinique and Tropic Skin Shade, have defended their products, insisting that they disagreed with the results.

But Natalie Hitchins, head of home products and services at Which?, said: “Our advice is don’t waste your money or take any unnecessary risks – stick to a tried and tested and reliable suncream.”

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