Consumer NZ finds New Zealanders support tighter sunscreen rules


Nearly one in five New Zealanders get sunburnt most years and the majority support a mandatory sunscreen standard, Consumer NZ says.

A survey by the consumer watchdog looked at how sun smart New Zealanders are, what’s important to them when buying sunscreen and whether they think current sunscreen standards are sufficient.

It found most people supported a mandatory sunscreen standard and regular testing requirements.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world, with 4000 melanoma cases diagnosed every year.

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Despite this, there is no requirement for sunscreen manufacturers to regularly test their products, or even test them at all, a situation described in 2018 by then-Consumer chief executive Sue Chetwin​ as “madness”.

A Consumer NZ survey found most people supported a mandatory sunscreen standard and regular testing requirements.

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A Consumer NZ survey found most people supported a mandatory sunscreen standard and regular testing requirements.

The survey found two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents read sunscreen labels before buying, but a much smaller number believed they could trust what they read.

Consumer NZ research writer Belinda Castles​ said it was crucial New Zealanders were able to make informed decisions when buying sunscreen, so they could get adequate protection.

“But our research has found that New Zealanders lack trust in sunscreen labelling. Only 37 per cent of shoppers agree they can trust them,” Castles said.

Consumer NZ has been calling for a mandatory sunscreen standard and testing requirements to ensure New Zealanders can trust what’s on the labels.

“Our research found consumers back this call – 83 per cent of New Zealanders want the government to make a sunscreen standard mandatory and nine out of 10 think sunscreen companies should be required to regularly test products,” Castles said.

A private member’s bill currently before the house would require sunscreen manufacturers to comply with the Australian and New Zealand standard, but falls short of requiring regular product testing.

The survey also found price ranked as the third most important factor when purchasing a sunscreen, after sun protection factor (SPF) protection and broad-spectrum protection.

However, the cost of sunscreen was a major barrier for some New Zealanders, with 60 per cent thinking sunscreens were too expensive.

Consumer NZ’s tips for staying protected from the sun

  • Don’t rely on sunscreen alone. Cover up with suitable clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and UV-protective sunglasses, and seek shade. When the sun’s rays are most intense, limit your time outside.
  • Look for sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or above, plus water resistance and broad spectrum protection.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside.
  • Apply plenty – about two teaspoons for each leg, and one teaspoonful for each arm, your back, your front and your face (which includes your neck and ears). That adds up to about 45ml (nine teaspoons) for a full-body application.
  • Ignore “once-a-day” claims. Sunscreen should be reapplied often – every two hours you’re outside.
  • Mopping up sweat or towelling dry reduces protection: Apply another coat of sunscreen immediately.



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