Editor's Note: The Hawaii County Council, June 15, 2022, voted to ban all sunscreens except mineral sunscreens. Please feel free to laugh at them while reading this news release from UK-based independent consumer testing lab 'Which?'.
Mineral sunscreens fail Which? tests
Independent Which? testing found multiple mineral-based sunscreens failed to provide enough sun protection or live up to claims on the bottle
News Release from which.co.uk, June 17, 2022
Worrying new Which? research reveals that many pricey mineral sunscreens aren’t up to the job of protecting your skin from the sun’s rays.
All the mineral-based products we tested failed SPF or UVA tests - and shockingly several products failed on both counts.
Four SPF 30 mineral-based sunscreens from Alba Botanica, Clinique, Hawaiian Tropic and Tropic Skincare - costing between £11.99 and £28 - didn’t come close to providing the protection they claim to. They failed key sun protection tests twice, using two different samples, so we’ve named them all Don’t Buys to avoid.
A fifth product – Green People Scent Free Sun Cream SPF 30, which uses mineral and chemical UV filters, failed to protect adequately from UVA, and is also a Don't Buy.
The Don't Buy mineral sunscreens that failed our tests
Mineral sunscreens have become increasingly popular in recent years, due to concerns that chemical UV filters may have an environmental impact, and the fact that mineral blockers can be better for those with sensitive skin.
But concerningly, none of the products we tested did a good job of protecting you from the sun or providing the level of protection claimed. Here's a rundown of the products that failed and why:
--Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30 £11.99/113ml In our tests, this sunscreen failed to provide even two thirds of its SPF 30 claim, and failed to protect adequately from UVA too. You won’t find any chemical UV filters – it relies solely on the minerals titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, and it's free from artificial colours or synthetic fragrances. That might sound promising for sensitive skin sufferers, but based on its disappointing sun protection test results, it’s a Don’t Buy.
--Clinique Mineral Sunscreen Lotions for Body SPF 30 £26/125ml When we tested this pricey mineral sunscreen it barely provided a third of its claimed SPF, and it failed to provide enough UVA protection either. It was easy to apply, but that's not much use when it didn’t provide enough sun protection in our tests. And at £26 for 125ml, it’s also the most expensive sunscreen we’ve tested. Don’t waste your money.
--Green People Scent Free Sun Cream SPF 30 £25.50/200ml We’re happy with the level of SPF protection provided by this sun cream, which is probably due to the inclusion of Isoamyl p-Methoxycinnamate (an approved chemical UV filter, which Green People state is from a natural source). But unfortunately, it fell short on UVA protection, failing our tests. Sunscreens need to pass both tests to be acceptable, and that's why this one is a Don’t Buy.
--Hawaiian Tropic Mineral Protective Sun Milk SPF 30 £10.50/100ml With 100% mineral-based UV protection, ‘reef-friendly’ claims and PETA certification, this mineral sunscreen from Hawaiian Tropic seems to have a lot going for it, but the results of our tests left us concerned. We found that it only provided around two thirds of its SPF 30 claim in our tests, meaning it won't protect you as much as you expect. It's another fail, and we don’t think you should buy it.
--Tropic Skin Shade Sun Cream SPF 30 £28/200ml Described as ‘reef friendly’ and mineral-based, this expensive sunscreen might feel like a good and green choice. Our application testing panel thought it was easy to apply while not feeling tacky on your skin. But, like the others above, it didn’t deliver on its SPF 30 claim in our tests, registering little more than a third of the expected SPF. It also failed to provide adequate UVA protection. Disappointing, and another Don’t Buy.
Mineral vs chemical sunscreens: what's the difference?
Chemical-based sunscreens use organic compounds, such as octocrylene, to filter UV rays. They are absorbed into the skin and provide sun protection by absorbing UV rays, either releasing the energy from the light as heat or changing the 3D shape of the chemical, which then breaks down.
Mineral sunscreens use inorganic minerals, usually titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, to provide protection from UV rays. These sit on top of the skin when the sunscreen is applied, rather than being absorbed, and create a physical barrier that acts like a mirror, reflecting and scattering UV light.
Some UV filtering chemicals that you’ll find in most modern sunscreens have been linked to coral damage, which is why some people want to avoid using them. They can also be better for sensitive skin, which can be irritated by some chemical filters - and there are some concerns that chemical UV filters are absorbed into the bloodstream, though more research is needed.
What is 'reef-safe' sunscreen?
Mineral sunscreens often promote their environmental credentials, the most common being that they are ‘reef-safe’ or ocean-friendly. This tends to mean that two commonly used chemical UV filters linked to coral bleaching – oxybenzone and octinoxate – aren’t used. In some places, including Hawaii, the sale of sunscreens containing these compounds is banned.
However, terms such as 'reef-safe' and ocean-friendly aren't regulated, so there's no consensus on what they mean or which products they can be applied to.
While environmental considerations are important, as is what works best for your skin, our tests show a worrying pattern of the mineral sunscreens tested failing to provide their claimed level of SPF or UVA protection. Other independent European and American consumer groups that Which? works with internationally have had similar findings in independent tests.
Sunscreens that passed our SPF and UVA tests
We also tested eight sunscreens which use chemical UV filters as part of our 2022 testing. These all passed both SPF and UVA tests, and some cost less than £3 a bottle….
read … Full Report
TN: Sunscreens costing up to £28 do not offer protection claimed, says Which?