Tested: Best and worst sun creams

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Consumer watch dog Which? have revealed the sun creams that passed their SPF and UVA testing, and those that didn't. We take a look at the best sun creams that work and which ones to avoid.

Sun creams are an absolute necessity, in fact they’re probably one of the first things you buy before a holiday, or pack before a day out in the sunshine.

But they can be expensive, especially considering they don’t last very long! You shouldn’t be keeping a sun cream for longer than 12 months, as it can make the UV protection ineffective (although, according to Dr Chris Flower, ‘Chances are it will probably be OK if it’s just over a year old, although older bottles should definitely be binned’).

Which? also advise to stay away from brands claiming their product is an all-day sun cream. Last year, Which? tested four ‘once a day’ sun creams to see whether they’d really protect you all day. It found that none of them were up to the job. So it’s fair to say we need to make sure we’re buying the right one!

At least when you pick up a bottle of sun cream in the shops you know it’s got all the protection you and your family need, right?

Maybe not. When consumer watchdog Which? tested an array of well-known sun creams that all claimed an SPF of 30 in 2017, we were shocked to see that one big name brand, which is also the most expensive sun cream they tested, didn’t pass their rigorous testing, with Which? labelling them ‘Don’t Buy’.

Over their two years of testing, Which? tested an array of recognisable sun creams, from big brands such as Nivea and Hawaiian Tropic to supermarket and shop own-brands like Aldi and Boots. Each of the creams were tested to strict British standards to see if they would provide enough protection against UVA and UVB radiation (UVB is what causes you to burn and UVA is what causes us to age from too much sun, with both types being linked to skin cancer).

To rate the creams fairly, Which? ran two tests. For the SPF test, sun cream was applied to a small area of a volunteer’s skin, which was then exposed to a UVB lamp. They recorded when the skin turned red, and compared the smallest dose of UVB needed to turn the skin red, with and without the sun cream, to determine the SPF. One product didn’t pass this test.

The UVA test was carried out using a device called a spectrophotometer, which allows testers to measure the amount of UVA absorbed by the sun cream. All products passed this test.

And the results were alarming! Especially when you consider that one of the creams that failed the tests costs £10, compared to one that passed which you can pick up for only £2.79.

To make sure you’re picking up the best bottle of sun protection for you and the family, read our round-up of the best and worst sun creams as rated by Which?