Sunscreen sold at £28 fails the sun safety test – but the £3 supermarket version does

Tropic Skin Shade Cream (200ml) did not meet the sun protection factor (SPF) on the label, an investigation by which? found. Cheaper supermarket versions got the thumbs up though

Woman applying sunscreen on her face
Experts say harmful UVA rays age skin and overexposure can lead to skin cancer (stock photo)

An expensive mineral sunscreen costing £28 and co-owned by Telly’s apprentice guru, Lord Alan Sugar, failed sun safety tests by a consumer advocate, while a cheap supermarket version costing less than £3 passed.

According to research by which? The expensive Tropic Skin Shade Cream (200ml) didn’t match the sun protection factor (SPF) on the label, leaving Brits vulnerable to skin damage.

Rigorous testing of the brand, which is co-owned by the business tycoon and Susie Ma, runner-up on the seventh series of the BBC’s hit reality show, found worryingly that the upscale product also failed UVA (ultraviolet A) tests.

Experts say harmful UVA rays age skin and overexposure can lead to skin cancer.

As a precaution, the company has now cleared the product from the shelves while it re-tests the sunscreen and awaits the results.

A spokesman for Tropic Skincare said while the company announced the which? The results conducted a new round of testing with multiple labs “as an extra precaution for our customers.”

Tropic Skin Shade Cream (200ml) didn’t meet the sun protection factor (SPF) on the label, an investigation found


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Asda’s Protect Moisturizing Sun Lotion SPF30 (200ml) received the thumbs up



Mineral-based sunscreens are said to be gentler on sensitive skin and the environment, but which ones? has put a “Do Not Buy” label on the brand.

But cheaper chemical-based sunscreens like Asda’s Protect Moisturizing Sun Lotion SPF30 (200ml) at £2.80, Morrison’s Sun Protect & Nourish Sun Spray SPF30 (200ml) at £3.50 and Superdrugs Solait Moisturizing Sun Cream spray SPF30 (200 ml) for £5.49 were given a thumbs up.

The upscale Clinque Mineral Sunscreen Lotion SPF30 (125ml) at £26 and Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Fragrance Free SPF30 (113g) at £11.99 also missed the mark.

Unveiling his findings on the hottest day of the year, with temperatures set to hit a record-breaking 36C in June, he said: “With many parts of the UK basking in a heatwave, it’s important everyone protects themselves from harmful UVA and UVB rays , which can lead to skin damage and even cause skin cancer.

“But which one? Tests of common sunscreens have found that some don’t live up to their SPF claims and therefore don’t provide adequate sun protection, meaning people using them could be unknowingly putting themselves at risk.”

The Consumer Champion tested 13 branded and private label sunscreens and found that all eight chemical-based brands from supermarkets and retail, costing just £2.80, met protection claims.

Three mineral lotions and creams failed both SPF and UVA tests


Getty Images/Tetra images RF)

However, three mineral lotions and creams failed both SPF and UVA tests, one passed only the SPF test, and another passed only the UVA test.

Along with Clinque and Tropic, Alba Botanica Sensitive Mineral Fragrance Free SPF30 (113g) £11.99 failed on both counts, tests revealed.

Most high-street versions — known as chemical-based sunscreens — use ingredients that absorb UV rays, while mineral sunscreens physically block UV rays using ingredients like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide.

Natalie Hitchins, which ones? Head of Home Products and Services, said: “Taking care of your skin while enjoying the sun is something everyone should do to avoid skin damage and the risk of skin cancer. There’s a big concern that none of the expensive mineral sunscreens in our tests offered the level of protection advertised on the packaging.

“Our advice is don’t waste money and don’t take unnecessary risks – stick with a proven and reliable sunscreen. We have found many highly effective, cheap sunscreens available in the high streets so you don’t have to worry about protecting yourself and your loved ones in the sun.”

Clinique said its lotion meets SPF claims and EU guidelines for UVA.

A spokesman said: “All our products undergo rigorous testing – we guarantee our claims are clinically valid. Our evaluation and inspection process means we have complete confidence in the integrity and effectiveness of every ingredient and formula.”

Tropic Skincare added, “The safety of our customers is always our top priority and we take the integrity of our formulations incredibly seriously. Our Skin Shade is mineral based – with over 20% mineral Zinc Oxide – which requires special consideration when testing.

“All of our sunscreens are rigorously and regularly tested by independent ISO-accredited laboratories, which have over 30 years of experience in globally compliant SPF testing, to ensure the highest level of accuracy.

“However, as an extra precaution for our customers, we have submitted all of our sunscreens for independent multi-lab retesting and have stopped selling our mineral sunscreens while we await final results.”

Alba Botanica declined to comment.

To meet EU recommendations, sunscreens must offer a UVA protection factor of at least a third of their SPF.

SPF is measured by testing on at least 10 people. The sunscreen is applied to a small area on a volunteer’s back, then a lamp that emits UV light to simulate the sun’s rays is placed on that area.

The researchers record when the skin turns red and compare the smallest amount of UVB required with and without sun protection.

The difference between the two is used to calculate the sun protection factor.

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Fry Electronics Team

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