The science behind sun protection: CTPA on sunscreen efficacy

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

The science behind sun protection: CTPA on sunscreen efficacy
The Cosmetics, Toiletry and Perfumery Association has released a statement aimed at reassuring consumers when it comes to trust in sunscreen products.

The CTPA describes itself as ‘concerned’ by recent media reports that call into question some claims made for sunscreens and the way they work, with the association keen to avoid consumers being discouraged from using sunscreens as a result.

The organisation, a leading trade body in the UK, states that through providing background info into the production and testing of such products,  it wants to “ensure that consumers can trust [sunscreens’] safety and efficacy”.

The statement comes in direct response to the recently released 2017 Which? Sunscreen report, in which the consumer products reviewer found one product tested did not measure up to protection claims. ​The other 13 products tested, however, did.

How is a sun protection product tested?

In a post on its website,​ the CTPA explains the process behind the testing of sunscreens, noting there is a ‘robust science’ behind sunscreen safety and efficacy:

  • During development, the product is tested by scientists a number of times using specialist equipment, and sometimes human volunteers, to check the SPF is consistently on track.

  • If at any stage during the process the SPF isn’t correct, then the product will not be taken any further.

  • If the development tests all confirm the required SPF, then the product will go on to have final SPF testing on human volunteers.

  • This lengthy and complex process carried out by manufacturers provide the assurances that the sunscreen does what it is supposed to do and has been made correctly.

  • Which? is not able to follow all of this testing process.  It bases the results of the sunscreen report just on the final SPF test which is why its results are questionable.

We are very concerned that in seeking to call into question the efficacy of sunscreens and the way that they are regulated, Which? may discourage consumers from using them, and they might miss out on the important sun protection these provide,​” says Chris Flower, toxicologist, chartered biologist and director-general of CTPA.

“We would like to reassure consumers, categorically, that they can trust the SPF of their sunscreens. In contrast to the one-off testing carried out by Which?, cosmetics companies don’t just rely on one phase of testing to determine the SPF number, but test sunscreens at various stages of their development to ensure they get consistent, proven results throughout.​”

Because of the vital role sunscreens play, they are one of the most studied and tested of all cosmetics products, the CTPA notes.

The British Skin Foundation recommends using sunscreens as part of a sunsafe regime, along with keeping covered up and seeking out shade during the hottest parts of the day.

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