05.08.21

Euroconsumers helps consumers choose the best sunscreen this summer

This summer, as always, Euroconsumers’ national organizations test sunscreens and after sun creams to help you make the best choice. Read our overview of our tests in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal as well as our actions at EU level. Learn about our actions to alert regulators about the harmful sunscreen products that are sold in Europe.

Cross-action

It’s summer, holidays are here! Sunscreen is essential to protect the skin. Consumers need to be sure they are making the right choice to preserve their health. Whereas over the last years, Euroconsumers has held meetings with EU executives to raise awareness on the sometimes harmful content and false claims of sunscreen products across the European market, its member organizations regularly test sunscreen products to identify the ones consumers need and the ones they should avoid. 

 

A solid history of analysing sunscreen products 

 

Euroconsumers’ member organizations Organización de Consumidores (OCU), Test Achats/Test Aankoop, DECO Proteste and Altroconsumo started investigating sunscreen products sold in Europe a long time ago. The main purpose of their research is to find out whether the most popular sunscreen products comply with their advertised UV protections on top of various criteria being measured. They also investigate after sun products to ensure their effects effectively mitigate the damages of sun burns.

 

Euroconsumers’ members ensure that information provided to consumers is thorough

 

Those yearly investigations also aim at evaluating the best sunscreen and after sun options for consumers. Are all sunscreens as effective as they claim to be? Should consumers favour the spray or the cream type? Which level of protection should consumers choose? What is their environmental impact? Can we still use last year’s sunscreen tube? Is the product harmful for children? Euroconsumers’ member organizations have become a reference for consumers in Belgium, Spain, Italy and Portugal when it comes to preparing their summer holidays. 

 

The worrying results of the sunscreen investigations

 

Findings of the four years-old survey which started in 2016 revealed that 15% of tested sunscreen products failed to meet their respective UV protections. The most alarming case was that of the brand ISDIN advertised with a protection factor of 50+ which showed to deliver a protection of 15! Allergens which are unsuitable for children were also found in products of the same brand that were especially conceived for children. This allergen has since been removed. In 2019, an endocrine disruptor (ethylhexylmethoxycinnamate) was found in the children's spray of the brand Uriage.

 

Euroconsumers raised concerns over sunscreens at EU level

 

Euroconsumers actively denounced the diverging treatment of harmful sunscreen products across the EU. Together with BEUC, the group raised the alarm of the worrying results of these sunscreen investigations at EU level. 

 

A tireless battle to raise awareness on the danger for consumers

 

After finding out the dangers caused by some investigated sunscreens, Euroconsumers’ national organizations have tirelessly tried to convince the concerned sunscreen manufacturers and the relevant national authorities  to withdraw the problematic products from the market. 

 

Euroconsumers denounces national authorities refuting official ISO norms 

 

While some national authorities reacted promptly and requested the products be removed from the market, the ones from Euronconsumers’ members’ countries, did not undertake any measures. Euroconsumers’ member organizations OCU, Test Achats/Test Aankoop, DECO Proteste and Altroconsumo have long been strongly denouncing the fact that national authorities were recurrently dismissing their findings, arguing that the officially recognized ISO standard produced misleading results. After several months of back and forth however, we eventually managed to pressure ISDIN to voluntarily recall its products in Spain, Portugal and Belgium. 

 

A case that was finally heard by the EU 

 

Last year, this long-held effort raised the attention of the European Commission which decided to invite Euroconsumers’ member organization Test Achats/Test Aankoop and Altroconsumo to share findings on sunscreen products in the single market.

 

The recent debunking of after sun products by Test Achats

 

Last month, Test Achats/Test Aankoop carried out a variety of tests on after sun products. It has discovered that they often do not prove to be much more effective than a simple body lotion, while costing 24% more on average. 

 

The added value of investigations by Euroconsumers’ members 

 

However, the results of these investigations are not all black. In addition to identifying abusive manufacturers, testing also allows Euroconsumers’ member organizations to spot the best products across the market. Consumers can make the most of it and benefit from practical advice to choose the best sunscreen. They can therefore take care of themselves, their family and the environment. Euroconsumers members’ websites can also provide consumers with comprehensive comparisons of a great number of sunscreen products across their national EU market! Consumers receive key advises in their sun products research thanks to our labels such as “best of the tests” or  “best buy”.

 

A comprehensive and thorough testing methodology 

 

Euroconsumers’ members have solid organizational and technical capacities that allow them to be on the cutting edge of industry practices and to check if ethical and regulatory requirements are upheld. Euroconsumers has always tried to work in collaboration with business stakeholders as far as those are willing to act fairly and responsibly towards consumers. However and when needed, Euroconsumers and its members know when to expose uncooperative actors and denounce unfair practices. Consumers are empowered when they  have the necessary information to make enlightened decisions. 

 

The evaluation of the protection against UVA and UVB

 

Carried out in laboratories, the tests start by taking into account the levels of UVA and UVB protection of tested products. A good sunscreen is supposed to protect well from UVA and UVB. UVB is what allows people to tan, but also to get sun burns while UVA mainly causes skin ageing. Both types of rays can cause skin cancer.

 

The evaluation of sunscreens: a concrete example of the testing methodology

 

Tests were carried out on volunteers, each of which tested all the available sunscreen products. Testers therefore evaluated:

 

  • The application on the skin;

  • The spreading;

  • The level of skin absorption; 

  • The texture;

  • whether it was sticky;

  • whether it was thick; 

  • The smell; 

  • whether a white layer remains on the skin.

 

The impact on the environment of the sunscreen

 

Euroconsumers’ members also evaluate the impact of the sunscreens on the environment. To do so, several aspects are evaluated: 

 

  • Environmental impact of the sunscreen ingredients;

  • Presence of microplastics in the sunscreens;

  • Sunscreen package;

  • Amount of cream wasted, by considering the quantity of left in the tube once finished. 

 

The analysis of the label

 

Last but not least, Euroconsumers’ members seek to ensure that the information available on the labels is thorough to ensure that consumers get the information they need prior to deciding whether to acquire the sunscreen product.