Australian sunscreens meet highest standards

02 February 2017

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Consumers can be assured that Australia continues to have some of the world's most demanding controls on primary sunscreens, which are regulated as medicines by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

ASMI advises consumers that all sunscreens, like any other topical product, may cause skin irritation or other adverse reactions in an extremely low proportion of the population. This is why it is imperative to test a new sunscreen - especially when used on young children - on a small patch of skin (e.g. on wrist).

Sunscreens sold in Australia provide benefits that are potentially lifesaving, but these come only when the instructions for use are followed. These include:

  • check the expiry date and follow guidelines for storage (e.g. do not leave in hot cars)
  • applying sunscreen liberally and carefully 20 minutes before skin exposure to sunlight
  • reapply regularly to avoid rub-off through toweling, swimming, and perspiration.

ASMI urges consumers who experience strong sunburn or a suspected adverse reaction to sunscreen to see a healthcare professional immediately. Any adverse reaction to a sunscreen should be reported to your doctor and the company listed on the sunscreen label and/or the TGA, which has an online form for consumers here.

It is also important to recognise that sunscreens are just one part of a Sun Smart strategy. The other steps include wearing protective clothing, wearing a hat and sunglasses and avoiding sun exposure by staying in the shade as much as possible, particularly during the hottest part of the day. ASMI stresses that over this hot Australian Summer, UV indexes have often been in the 'Extreme' range and the high-risk sun exposure time has often been listed on weather reports as 9:30am to 5:30pm rather than just a few hours in the middle of the day.   

The Australasian College of Dermatologists recommends keeping babies under 12 months out of direct sun and the period when UV radiation of the sun is at its most intense, in addition to using other forms of sun protection, such as hats, clothing, and sunglasses. Sunscreen products should be used only when the conditions above cannot be avoided. Liberal amounts of sunscreen should be applied for babies of six months or older before they are allowed out in the sun for short periods of time. Infants under six months of age should be kept out of the sun.

As medicines, consumers should be reassured that sunscreens have one responsible, capable and independent body for oversight of the products for sale in Australia. These TGA controls include permitted ingredients assessed safe for use in the product, quality of the manufacturing sites, labelling, advertising, and complaints and adverse event review. The TGA has explained more about their sunscreen testing here