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Which? SPF report could be dangerous to consumers, say industry insiders

By Katie Bird , 08-Jun-2009
Last updated on 08-Jun-2009 at 12:41 GMT

The Which? report that questioned SPF values could turn consumers away from sun protection with devastating consequences, according to the UK trade body CTPA.

Earlier this month consumer watchdog Which? released a report questioning the accuracy of the SPF values on the labels of a number of sun protection products.

The organisation tested the products following international SPF testing methods and in many cases came up with different values to those the manufacturers had advertised on the label.

However, a number of industry insiders have taken issue with the consumer watchdog’s report and said it might engender mistrust in sun protection products that could lead to some consumers abandoning protection altogether.

“We are concerned that their report could lead people to mistrust sunscreen products and stop using them, which could be very dangerous,” said the CTPA’s Emma Meredith.

‘SPF test not open to interpretation’

In addition, the Which? report claimed the testing guidelines were open to interpretation, which the CTPA refutes.

Which? claimed that measuring UVB doses in units of energy or time, which is permitted under the test method, could lead to different results.

“This in itself shows a complete misunderstanding of the science involved,” said CTPA.

"Variability and false results arise from deviations from the method rather than from the permitted tolerance within it, the science is clear," added the trade body.

“We are disappointed that their report seemed to call the international SPF testing method into disrepute,” Emma Meredith told CosmeticsDesign.

More rigorous?

The industry body alleges that the consumer watchdog suggested its tests were ‘more rigorous’ than those employed by the manufacturers, and takes issues with this.

“Which? used the same test as the industry. The test used by industry is not a Colipa guideline, as Which? suggested, but an international SPF testing method,” said CTPA’s Emma Meredith.

For two of the products Which? labelled as ‘ones to avoid’, the manufacturers had two separate independent testing laboratories confirm the on-label SPF, said the trade body.

A number of industry insiders, who wish to remain anonymous, have questioned the value of one test result that contradicts a body of results from multiple laboratories.

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