The Cancer Society is calling for mandatory sunscreen testing after a Consumer NZ investigation found five sunscreens failed to provide their claimed sun protection.
Out of the 10 products tested, only half met their SPF and broad-spectrum label claim.
Those that passed included the Cancer Society Everyday, Cetaphil Sun Kids Liposomal Lotion, Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face Superscreen, Skinnies Conquer with Manuka Oil Sports Sunscreen and Nivea Sun Sensitive Protect.
Cancer Society chief executive Lucy Elwood said its advice was that any broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher was safe to use, when applied correctly.
"However a mandatory sunscreen standard would mean sunscreen sold here would meet reliable world standards say the Cancer Society," she said.
"We'd like to see New Zealand introduce a regime similar to Australia's Therapeutic Goods Act. This will reassure New Zealanders that standards for sunscreen meet the same requirements as medicines. Currently, retail sunscreen is classified as a cosmetic.
"This isn't good enough for a country like ours with the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world."
In Australia sunscreens were subject to strict manufacturing guidelines by the Australian Government's Therapeutic Goods Act, Elwood said.
The Cancer Society are pleased that a recent Consumer NZ test on their Cancer Society Everyday SPF50+ product met SPF and broad-spectrum label claims.
"Our products have shown they meet reliable standards for sun protection use. This is added reassurance for New Zealanders wanting to protect themselves against the sun.
"Cancer Society urges consumers not to panic - even if you have a sunscreen that didn't meet its claim, the test results showed all SPF 50+ products providing high protection," she said.
"It would be a shame if consumers chose to throw out usable products that still provide sun protection."
Consumer NZ's testing
All sunscreens tested by Consumer NZ carried a label of SPF50+.
A further three sunscreens failed to meet their SPF claims but met their broad-spectrum claims.
Those were Banana Boat Daily Protect Sunscreen, Natural Instinct Invisible Natural Sunscreen and Sukin Suncare Sheer Touch Facial Sunscreen Untinted.
The SPF rating for Banana Boat was still high at 40.4 but did not meet the SPF50+ claimed on the label.
Sukin and Natural Instinct were found to only provide moderate protection, SPF15 to 25, rather than the high SPF30 advertised.
Consumer New Zealand said Sukin had advised its sunscreen was being retested.
Le Tan Coconut Lotion and Ecosol Water Shield Sunscreen met neither the SPF nor broad-spectrum claim made on their label.
It is the second time the Le Tan sunscreen failed to meet its SPF claim in testing, according to Consumer NZ.
Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said that in a country with such high rates of skin cancer it was imperative SPF claims were accurate.
"Making sure consumers can rely on the claims made labelling so that they know they're getting a reliable product is absolutely critical," he said.
"Secondly, as with any product, manufacturers should be able to stand behind the claims that they're making on their label."
Duffy said manufacturers of sunscreens found not to be meeting the claims should work to rectify the labelling.
Full test results are available at www.consumer.org.nz.
- Additional reporting: RNZ