In response to reported concerns during the past Australian summer that sunscreens were failing to provide adequate sun protection, the TGA undertook laboratory testing of 31 commonly used products, including lotions, creams and aerosol sprays, sourced from pharmacies and supermarkets.
The TGA found that all products tested contained the correct levels of ingredients, as specified on their labelling, and complied with the Australian regulatory guidelines for sunscreens for content of sun protection ingredients (90-120% of the labelled claim).
Also, following concerns raised through the use of aerosol spray products, we undertook preliminary testing to investigate their delivery rates. We found the amount of sunscreen delivered per second differed between brands. Given this, it is important consumers follow the labelling instructions to ‘apply liberally’ to ensure proper coverage of the sunscreen.
The TGA plan to undertake additional investigations into aerosol products as part of our ongoing review of all sunscreen products.
With more than 24 million people in Australia there are many millions of applications of sunscreen each year and – given the widespread use – the rate of reported problems is low. Between 1 January and 31 December 2016 the TGA received a total of 27 reports of adverse reactions to sunscreens. Of these 15 were reports of allergic reactions (rash) and 12 reports of a product not being effective.
It is important for consumers to understand that sunscreen is only one of the protections people should take to protect themselves from sunburn and skin cancer, others include limited exposure to direct sun, proper clothing and shelter.
The Cancer Council and medical colleges have emphasised the importance of applying sunscreens liberally and regularly, as these products are commonly under-applied.
Topically applied sunscreens are also removed from the skin due to sweating, washing and being wiped by towel or clothing. Accordingly, they must be labelled with instructions to apply generously to the skin 20 minutes before skin exposure, then reapply frequently, and after swimming or towelling.