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Don’t get burned on the beach!  Water-resistant sun creams don’t work as well as they claim!

Robin Bowman

Robin Bowman
May 24, 2018

Water-resistant sun creams offer far less protection from harmful rays than they often claim, a consumer group has revealed.

Consumer group, Which? tested two creams that claimed to be water-resistant and discovered that their protection fell by as much as 59% when the wearer had been in salt water for 40 minutes.

Cancer Research UK said it welcomed the warning and added that no sunscreen was 100% effective.

But the findings will be especially alarming for parents wanting to protect their children from burning.


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Current rules mean that manufacturers can claim sunscreen is water-resistant if the protective SPF drops by up to 50% after two 20-minute periods in water. But the tests are carried out using tap water, not salty sea water.

Which? says its tests in salt water, chlorinated water and fast moving water, exposed "serious flaws" in the testing regime, and were much more realistic of a holiday environment.

It said the SPF of one well-known international sunscreen dived by 59% after 40 minutes of immersion.

And a popular own-branded product fell by 34%.

"In reality, sun protection is likely to drop even further - factors such as reflection from water, heat, light, sweat, towelling and rubbing all reduce the protection of sunscreens," Which? said.

Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight is the main preventable cause of skin cancer, says  Cancer Research UK.

However, the director-general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CTPA), Dr Chris Flower, a chartered biologist, said current testing methods worked well.

"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," he said.

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

Which? wants tougher regulation like in the US and Australia, where the SPF on a product's label must be the SPF it provides after immersion.

It added that UK water-resistance tests were "unrealistic to the point of being meaningless".

Cancer Research UK says it is essential when using sunscreen to put plenty of it on "to get the protection listed on the bottle".

It says holidaymakers should:

    • Reapply creams regularly
    • Cool off in the shade rather than rely on sunscreen alone
    • Protect skin with a T-shirt and a hat


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