How safe are sun creams?

Like most people, I really enjoy going on foreign holidays to hot countries. In the last few months I’ve enjoyed holidays in Italy, Florida, and Spain.

But as someone who has experienced skin cancer several times in recent years, I know only too well the massive importance of being careful in the sun, and using a high quality sunscreen to protect my skin.

It was therefore very concerning to discover that three popular sunscreen lotions offer less protection than they claim. This is according to consumer organisation Which? who have recently carried out spot-checks on 26 sunscreens. The creams made by Calypso Sun, Bondi Sands and Asda did not pass all the tests - but others, including some cheap options from supermarkets Aldi and Lidl, did pass the tests.

How were the tests conducted?

Which? tested how much energy it took to redden the backs of volunteers exposed to rays from ultraviolet (UV) lamps, with and without sunscreen, and applied the lotions to glass plates to measure the amount of light they filtered.

Lotions that failed the tests included:

  • Calypso Sun Press & Protect Sun Lotion SPF30
  • Asda Protect Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF 30 High
  • Bondi Sands SPF 50+ Face Sunscreen Lotion

Lotions that passed the tests included:

  • Lidl Cien Sun Spray SPF 30
  • Aldi Lacura SP 30 Sun Lotion
  • Nivea Sun Protect & Moisture Lotion SP 30
  • Boots Soltan Protect & Moisture spray SPF30
  • Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids Water Resistant Sun Cream Spray SPF50


Natalie Hitchins from Which? said: “It is incredibly concerning that some big brands failed our tests and did not offer the level of sun protection claimed on the packaging. However, it is great to see cheaper top-quality sunscreen options available on the High Street and in supermarkets at a time where shoppers need affordable options.”

She continued: "Our results prove that there’s no need to splash out to keep you and your loved ones safe in the sun this summer and that many of the supermarket own-brand products can do a good job.”

What do the manufacturers say?

Asda questioned the validity of the Which? tests, saying independent tests of the same batch had confirmed the lotion provided the level of protection on the label. Meanwhile, Calypso Sun and Bondi Sands said all products were carefully tested and met safety standards.

An Asda spokesperson said: “We recently had our Asda Protect Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF 30 High retested by a leading external provider using internationally recognised testing methods. These test results confirmed that this product has a sun-protection factor of 31.5 - and therefore, we do not recognise the test results Which? has published.”

A spokesperson from Calypso Sun said: "We would like to thank Which? for sharing their 2024 study results - however, all our products are carefully and independently tested and have passed, in accordance with EU standards and regulations. Calypso Sun will continue its proud commitment in providing safe-sun protection products for all the family, a promise we have consistently kept over several decades."

What are the views of The Customer Service Blog?

Darren Bugg, Editor of The Customer Service Blog said: “As someone who has experienced skin cancer myself twice in recent years, I know the importance of being very careful in the sun. But like most people, I enjoy taking holidays in warm countries like the USA, Italy, and Spain.”

So I am extremely careful to use sunscreens that I know are safe. The tests carried out by Which? are very worrying, especially because some of the more expensive brand name sunscreens have failed the tests. These are the supposedly ‘better quality’ products, but they have come out worse than some of the cheaper products in independent tests.”

“I totally accept that there may be some room for error in the testing, and the companies that failed the tests have called into question the validity of the tests themselves.”

“But they are missing the point. Any product which is designed to prevent serious diseases like skin cancer should be passing safety tests without any room for doubt. If a drug or medical product was found to just slightly fail a test, then the product would be immediately taken off the market. There is no room for error.”

“It's simply not good enough that companies like Asda, Calypso Sun and Bondi Sands say that there may have been errors in the test results. Skin cancer is a very serious issue, and any product that is designed to protect people shouldn't just be creeping through a test result - it should always be passing the test with flying colours.”

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