SA’s sunscreen situation

Thursday, 13 September 2012

SA's sunscreen situationOver the past few weeks, South African sunscreen manufacturers as well as the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA) have come under fire in the media. It began with John Robbie’s 702 Talk Radio investigation (or was it a witch hunt?) into the efficacy of our local sunscreens and then spilled into a Nose Week exposé. If you’re not familiar with what went down, here’s a brief summary of the ruckus:

Previously, UVA exposure was thought negligible in the cause of malignant melanoma
Recently, international research has proved otherwise – UVA it’s now a co-culprit with UVB
Global demand for better protection in sunscreens against UVA resulted in the drafting of the International Standard (ISO) for UVA protection (June 2012)
Next, CANSA commissioned independent research into South African manufactured sunscreen as a litmus test, using only 35 samples (a representation of 9.8% of the 357 sunscreens sold in SA)
CANSA asked Future Cosmetics (research lab) to test sunscreens against the Colipa Standard, a European UVA benchmark similar to the ISO – as some sunscreens sold in SA are imported from Europe
702 Talk Radio and Nose Week got wind of the results being less than satisfactory, but CANSA couldn’t publish the final results due to gagging order and red tape
CANSA released a public response saying it is in discussion with local manufacturers and have developed a new seal of approval

As we all know, CANSA is only a watchdog, and cannot enforce certain practices on local sunscreen manufacturers. The non-profit organisation has, however, told manufacturers and distributors that if they wish to have CANSA’s new seal of approval on their products, they have up until March 2013 to up their UVA protection levels.

While the new ISO will be incorporated into the South African standard from 1 April 2013, it’s still 2012, and summer is still on its way. Recognising this CANSA, has released a list of sunscreens that are compliant with the Colipa standard.

In our attempt to make sense of the commotion, BeautySA spoke to a few sunscreen providers about UVA protection, the ISO standard and the Colipa standard.

‘L’Oréal Research works closely with Colipa and our sun protection products provide extensive, balanced protection that goes far beyond the internationally recognised standards,’ says a L’Oreal representative. ‘Garnier and Vichy products are manufactured and tested in accordance to European standards. All sun protection products manufactured by the L’Oreal Group have for many years included high levels of protection against UVA and UVB radiation.’

Ultrasun also adheres to the Colipa standard, but gave some insight into how to judge which products are the ones you should be buying.

‘The best method of knowing whether a product complies with Colipa is to ask for the test results,’ says Peter Goeble, CEO of Ultrasun. ‘However, clients should also look out for the way in which UVA claims are made. If a manufacturer merely states that their product protects against UVA rays, then this is only their opinion. It has not been independently tested or verified. Only those products showing the words “UVA” in the circular shape have been tested by Colipa to confirm that their products comply with the minimum requirements.’

Tropitone and Everysun are also Colipa compliant, and are running a great campaign – if you’re not sure whether your current sunscreen offers you adequate protection, you can simply swap it for a brand new bottle of Tropitone or Everysun. On 22 and 23 September you can find them at the following malls: Clearwater, Eastgate, Mall of Rosebank, Canal Walk, Tygervalley, Gateway, The Pavillion, Menlyn Park, Mimosa Mall and Greenacres.

SA's sunscreen situation

Despite this rather confusing situation, CANSA says you still need to remain sun smart:
C – Cover up with suitable clothing with adequate UV-protection
A – Avoid the sun between 10am and 3pm when solar radiation is most intense
R – Rub on an effective broad-spectrum UVA/UVB (with a minimum SPF20 and maximum SPF50) on all exposed parts of the body
E – Examine your skin regularly and have a friend examine your back. Have a medical skin examination once every winter when your skin is at its lightest

Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF50, R159.95 for 40ml
Vichy Capital Soleil SPF50 Skin Cell Sun Protection Spray, R199 for 125ml
Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Sensitive Protection Lotion, R129.99
Ultrasun High 30 Anti-Ageing Face, R179.95

Other articles you may be interested in:
Sunscreens we love

Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
Megan on Google+

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  1. Sue1N

    Great article! Good to know about CANSA’s new seal of approval!

    5 years ago •

  1. Olga

    Have read great reviews on the Bioderma products so think I will try the Photoderm

    6 years ago •

  1. Debsie

    Great Article. I can’t go without sunblock on my face

    6 years ago •

  1. Claire Mitchell

    It is important to put sunscreen on every single day (even in winter). I remember getting the worst sunburn when I was little and it was because I thought I didn’t need to put sunscreen on when it was overcast. It just showed me how intense UV rays are :( Thanks for the article.

    6 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    Great informative article!

    6 years ago •

  1. ricebunny

    sunscreen is so important i love Ultrasun High 30 Anti-Ageing Face

    6 years ago •

  1. Humphreys

    After referring backt to this article, i realised that it’s so informative with the list of approved sunscreeens. A definite treasure for the upcoming summer days! Thanks

    6 years ago •

  1. K@t

    The South African sun can be really damaging!

    6 years ago •

  1. Chicara

    I definitely need to wear more sunscreen, even in Winter. I always make sure my face is protected, but I need to worry just as much about my body – even if it’s just 10 minutes in the sun.

    6 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    I like the Ambre Solaire spray, as it leaves no white marks

    6 years ago •

  1. Noma

    Had a great weekend in Cape Town..all sunny!! And I didn’t forget to put on sunscreen!!!

    6 years ago •

  1. Cat

    Great article, this is the reason that I rather opt for self tanning solutions when I want a nice tan. The sun is so harmful, actually scary

    6 years ago •

  1. Maddy

    I never step out in sun without sunscreen and always keep a small tube in my handbag. Keep articles like these coming. thanks.

    6 years ago •

  1. Gee Whiskers

    I wear sunscreen all year round and really appreciate articles like this :)

    6 years ago •

  1. BeautyBloggess

    Possibly one of the best written articles on this that I’ve come across. SA is at the forefront of testing sun care products and has been instrumental in creating the ISO standard. More info is available through the CTFA ( and Coschem ( – both local cosmetic associations.

    6 years ago •

  1. Charles

    Thanks for the article! This is quite scary; how do I know which products to trust when it comes to protecting my toddler’s delicate skin?!

    6 years ago •

  1. Tasha

    This is scary! How with all he customer protections in place we end up buying unsatisfactory products? Very scary.

    6 years ago •

  1. DIVA

    Thanks for article, do I have to put on sunscreen in winter?

    6 years ago •

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