Your waterproof sunscreen might not be all that protective

Which? has tested water-resistant sunscreen [Photo: Getty]
Which? has tested water-resistant sunscreen [Photo: Getty]

Summer is almost here, which means it’s time to slap on the sunscreen.

When it comes to choosing a particular sun cream, there are a couple of things you’re likely to check.

The SPF Factor for one, then there’s the UV rating and finally you’ll probably want to know whether or not it is water-resistant.

But according to a new report, waterproof sun creams aren’t always as effective as they might seem.

Consumer group Which? tested two products – one own-brand and one well-known branded product – which both claim to be water-resistant, and found that they don’t work nearly as well after they have been worn in the sea.

After just 40 minutes in salt water the product testers found that the sun protection factor (SPF) dropped by up to 59%.

How effective is water-resistant sunscreen?

Current UK tests allow manufacturers to claim a sunscreen is water resistant if the SPF drops by as much as 50% after two 20-minute periods of immersion.

But the tests are carried out using tap water.

Which? said its more rigorous testing of the products in both salt and chlorinated water and fast moving water better replicate the true conditions experienced on holiday.

It therefore believes its findings exposed “serious flaws” in the current testing regime.

Though the consumer group declined to name the products it revealed that the SPF of one well-known international sunscreen dropped by 59% after 40 minutes of immersion.

And the tested popular own-branded product fell by 34%.

The results, Which? claimed, indicated that current requirements for meeting water resistance claims were “unrealistic to the point of being meaningless”.

It warned, therefore, that it was almost impossible for holidaymakers to know what SPF they would end up with after swimming in the sea or a pool, particularly when you throw in additional holiday type conditions like sweating, rubbing and towelling off sun cream.

The results of the testing [Photo: Which?]
The results of the testing [Photo: Which?]

“Water resistant sunscreens don’t live up to their claims”

Commenting on the findings Nikki Stopford, director of research and publishing at Which? said: “Our research shows water resistant sunscreens don’t live up to their claims when subjected to rigorous tests – raising serious questions about the current guidelines.

“With 15,400 new cases of melanoma each year, manufacturers should be required to robustly test their products and make only claims that can be relied on, ensuring holidaymakers know they can trust their sunscreen to protect them.”

Though Cancer Research UK welcomed the testing, Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA) said Which?’s findings were flawed and consumers should have confidence in water-resistant sunscreens.

“In fact an SPF 30 product will stop approximately 96% of UV rays reaching the skin and after robust water resistance testing the product will still filter out at least 93% of the sun’s UV rays,” director-general Dr Chris Flower, a chartered biologist told BBC.

“This is clearly not the dramatic reduction in efficacy that Which? implies.”

Are waterproof sunscreens ineffective? [Photo: Getty]
Are waterproof sunscreens ineffective? [Photo: Getty]

Which?’s sunscreen warnings come after a mum also issued some advice to other parents to check the UV ratings on their children’s sunscreen and not just the factor.

Taking to social media the mum explained that there’s much more to sun protection than just slapping on the SPF.

Instead of just relying on the factor they are using, parents should also be looking at the star rating on the bottle which relates to its UV protection.

Not knowing the difference between UVA and UVB isn’t the only sun protection mistake parents are making.

From not applying often enough to thinking sun cream doesn’t have a sell by date, check out our expert-backed guide to staying sun safe.

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