Slip, slop and slap - it is a message many say they are following strictly this summer, but are still getting severely burnt.

More people have come forward to share photos of burnt faces and bodies and stories of enduring days of pain, despite being actively sun smart and using sunscreen.

It comes after the family of 4-month-old baby Noah Watson went public about their son's severe burns over the weekend; even after his mother generously applied Cancer Society SPF50 sunscreen on him.

Some Herald readers say sunscreen products they have used have had little to no effect on their skin.


Among some of the products blasted by readers are those from top brands Cancer Society, Banana Boat - which has a range specifically for children - Neutrogena and Coola.

Larissa Thompson said her family had been put off using Cancer Society sunscreen products in future after her teenage daughter suffered burns to her back.

"I have had [to] apologise to my 15-year-old daughter, who came back from the beach looking like a pink flamingo, as I accused her of not using sunscreen.

"Lizzy has pale skin and very conscious of her susceptibility to being burnt if she didn't cover up.

A teenager shows off the aftermath of a day at the beach while wearing Cancer Society SPF50+ sunscreen. Photo / Supplied
A teenager shows off the aftermath of a day at the beach while wearing Cancer Society SPF50+ sunscreen. Photo / Supplied

"So she was applying thickly every half hour but it was completely useless. She may as well have applied moisturiser for all the good it did.

Thompson said she had bought her daughter a tube of the Cancer Society's SPF50+ sunscreen just before Christmas. It was a brand the family had always used and with no problems.

"She had very bad sunburn with a patch on her shoulder going down a few layers of skin.''

Thompson said the family would not be using that brand of sunscreen again.


Kelly Ryan, said she had been "burned like a crisp'' after applying Banana Boat sunscreen.

"It was almost as if I did the opposite and attracted the sun to my skin."

She did not specify what SPF protection level her sunscreen had, but acknowledged she had not been out in the sun long enough to do that much damage.

"I was holidaying in Fiji and was only outside for an hour, as I had to catch a flight, so there wasn't any need to reapply.''

Another woman, Lisa Bolt, said she was left severely burnt, blistered and peeled through three layers of skin over the Christmas holidays.

"As a nurse, I was horrified! I now have freckles all over the areas that weren't there before Christmas and the skin is now a weird greyish brown colour. Little bit stressed that I will now die of skin cancer in 15 years.''

Four-month-old baby Noah suffered blister burns despite using SPF50 Cancer Society sunscreen. Photo / Supplied
Four-month-old baby Noah suffered blister burns despite using SPF50 Cancer Society sunscreen. Photo / Supplied

She had been using the Cancer Society's SPF50+ waterproof spray and later purchased the SPF50+ sunscreen made by Neutrogena.

She found the latter was not any better, she said, as it had the tendency to get into her eyes if sweating or swimming.

Bronwyn Golding had bought a sunscreen by Coola - an eco-friendly sun care range that uses natural ingredients - over the summer for her family.

"Two weeks ago, my daughter suffered serious burns all over her back after a three-hour walk even thought we applied a generous amount before leaving the house.

"She was vomiting that night. The sunscreen did nothing.''

Golding said the family had since purchased sunscreens from the Cancer Society range, but was again questioning whether this would be effective, given other people's recent experiences.

"How can consumers know that we can trust the claims on the sunscreens we buy?

"Isn't it false advertising? Not to mention the health risk of skin cancer it poses.''


Last month, Consumer NZ released results from its testing of sunscreens; which found six out of 10 products did not meet their label claims.

Consumer NZ head Sue Chetwin said they six sun care products they tested did not provide the sun protection it claimed.

The products that did meet its label claims were: Nivea Sun Kids Protect & Sensitive Sun Lotion SPF50+, UV Guard Max Sunscreen SPF50+ and Essone Natural Sunscreen Summer Coconut & Jojoba SPF30.

New Zealand has the highest overall rate in the world of melanoma - the type of cancer most likely to result in premature death.

Associate professor Tony Reeder, of Otago University's department of preventative and social medicine, said: "Most cases of skin cancer are attributable to excess sun exposure - so fortunately, skin cancer is potentially largely preventable.''

The correct application of a sunscreen was one strategy to keep sun smart - but also slipping on a shirt, finding shade under a tree or umbrella, wearing sunglasses and also a hat.


Cancer Society NZ chief Mike Kernaghan said they were in the process of investigating up to 30 complaints from people and were also speaking with the family of little Noah Watson.

He told Newstalk ZB another possibility in Noah's case was that he had had an allergic reaction to the chemicals in the sunscreen.

Up to 60 complaints were received by the Cancer Society each year.

Kernaghan told the Herald the process investigated the complaint itself in the first instance, he said, rather than the product.

Other factors were checked - for example, how the product was used or applied - before the expiry date and the batch of sunscreen were looked at more carefully and then tested if needed.

"It is unsafe to use any sunscreen ... that is past its expiry date. We check those things as well just to make sure that the product is robust and still met the claim.

"It is a bit of a process, but it is important to have that process."

Cancer Society's sun-care products are manufactured in Australia as there are no standards to meet here in New Zealand.

Kernaghan stressed they took every complaint seriously, but acknowledged that they were very confident with their available products and the SPF protection levels they carried.