In New Zealand, sunscreens are categorised as a ‘cosmetic’ rather than a health product. And because of this no independent testing is required. So, in theory, anyone can mix up a ‘sunscreen’ and sell it, without having to verify any of the sun protection claims with proper testing.
But here at Oasis we take our sunscreen seriously and we think it’s pretty important that sunscreen does what it says on the tube. So all our Oasis Sun products undergo stringent testing at an independent, international testing laboratory. Here’s how we do it.
We send 100mls of sunscreen to the laboratory we use and we tell them what we expect the SPF and UVA rating to be and any other claims we want verified. So with Oasis Sun Sport, we were formulating a sunscreen with 2 hour water resistance, so we asked the lab to test for this as well as the SPF and UVA claims. Then the people in white coats carry out the necessary tests to international and, specifically, Australia/ New Zealand standards.
The AS/NZ 2604 standard includes all international requirements and has specific labelling requirements for Australia and New Zealand.
The sunscreens are tested on real live humans in laboratory conditions. So for the SPF testing a ‘solar simulator’ is used, this imitates the UV light emitted by the sun. A small amount of the sunscreen is applied to a marked area of the skin then exposed to UV light for varying periods of time. Some hours later the skin is checked for signs of reddening.
For water resistance the subjects have the product applied before sitting in a spa bath for the required amount of time. So, with Oasis Sun Sport, which has a 2 hour water resistance claim, subjects had to sit in the spa bath for 2 hours.
When all the necessary tests have been carried out the final report is compiled and sent to us. Depending on the report, we may need to make some changes to the formulation and then get the product retested, so it can be a very long process. It can also sometimes be surprising – as results can vary for the same sunscreen.
We want our sunscreens to give consistent and reliable protection to our customers. So we've also recently made the decision to re-test all our sunscreens annually.
Testing might not be mandatory yet in New Zealand - but you can be sure we are doing it.