Are the labels on your sunscreen really accurate?

This is small study conducted by a Japanese company (they sell spectrophotometers etc) on 6 different (prob Japanese) sunscreens by applying 2mg/2uL per cm2 on human skin (living volunteers, not ex vivo expts) in 2015. I'm not going to translate everything but scroll to the last page and look at the results table.

On the left of the table shows the 6 diff samples and their SPF and PA labels. 
On the right of the table shows the actual SPF and PA measures according to their measurement.

Basically, all sunscreens did not hit the mark (as indicated on their labels, esp UVA protection) except for Company A sunscreen 3 (although I'm a bit iffy about the ridiculously high SPF and PA measurement values).

Still, food for thought. Apply more sunscreen, and apply more often. Labels are not accurate I guess.


  • what are Japanese standards for SPF?

    i used to buy a SPF130! like this. i think now SPF50+ is the max you can get

  • Well, the SPF numbers are all correct when I look at the table. It is not allowed to give SPF numbers above 50, so companies can only say 50+ (which means the SPF is above 59.9).

    I believe measuring UVA-protection is more difficult, especially because the uncertainty gets larger with increasing UVA-protection, and it depends on the number of test subjects. But I don't know for sure, most studies on ncbi say the tests are consistent and reasonably reliable.

  • Preciousia,

    The Japanese standards for SPF are the same as international's (as far as I know), and as far as the cosmetic industry association in Japan declares.

    Yes, the SPF ratings are okay but the UVA ratings are not. The PA ratings and PPD ratings are different, and I think I read somewhere that the way Japanese measure UVA is different and not exactly accurate either. So be it PA or PPD ratings.. I take it with a big pinch of salt. Just apply and reapply. :P
  • escherichia  

    imho the PA Standards is more superior than PPD.

    And yes they can't be compared as the measurements / testing are different.

    same as SPF30 Australian sunscreen vs SPF30 US sunscreen :)

    the reason i asked regarding SPF50+ max number rating is because Japanese skincare/makeup do not print expiry date and my friend got this SPF130 and she thinks it is so amazing.. i am trying to tell her it must be expired as the rules now says SPF50+ is the max number they can claim
  • I think someone mentioned (maybe the BB guys?) that sunscreens can last for up 3-4 years unopened, and after opened, about a year. My friend broke out real bad from the SPF130 sunscreen. :(
  • escherichia  lucky me. i used it for 2 years SPF130 no issue.

  • That's exactly what I said in another post, the difference in protection between spf30 and spf130 is very small. Also the measurement uncertainty is quite large with such high spf values. However getting to such high spf values requires relatively high concentrations of sunscreen actives (and as you might have noticed in the post about the best sunscreen actives, no sunscreen active is 100% perfect, so more isn't always better), also many additives are necessary to keep the product stable, that's why high spf numbers can be problematic for skin.
  • edited October 2016
    @Peter i am trying to say my friend is using "expired" sunscreen since they don't make SPF130 anymore. Not sure when they changed the rules to max claim of SPF50+ in Japan.

    So the morale of the story here is not only to emphasise what you said, Peter about high spf but more importantly, be wary of SPF130 or anything over SPF50 Japanese sunscreen as their law says SPF50+ is the max. @escherichia could verify this perhaps. 

    Also i have pointed out that Japanese products do not printe expiry date.
  • edited October 2016
    Yes I understand the morale of the story ;)

    I just wanted to add that an spf 30 with sufficient uva protection and antioxidants is fine as well, most people believe high spf numbers are much better, but that isn't really true (even if you consider most people apply less than the recommended amount).
  • edited October 2016
    @Peter I am beginning to see your point of view! I am still not sure about going 100% physical vs physical mix chemical

    Between a SPF50 and a SPF30 sunscreen. i prefer one that offer a higher UVA protection since UVA accounts for 95% of UVL (UV Light)

    Table comparing UVA v UVB from Dermnet

    Some sunscreens nano sized their ZnO or TiO2 so small that i am really not sure about the "broad spectrum coverage and what it means with regards to UVA since decreasing the size decrease the UVA protection (while getting UVB)

    Ultimately, i want the one with higher UVA coverage and SPF numbers are in no way anyway an indication of UVA protection.

    Played around with the Basf sunscreen calculator. It takes alot of zinc and titanium to get SPF50!
  • edited October 2016
    but wait a min. how is it possible if Japan's MAXIMUM permitted SPF is 50+.

    How is this e-retailer still selling this SPF130+ sunscreen?!

  • @preciousia ;
    In america and europe the maximum spf is 50+, maybe Japan has different regulations then?
    The Basf sunscreen calculator is inaccurate. If you fill in some of the percentages of sunscreen actives present in your current sunscreen, you will never end up at the right spf value. This is simply because other ingredients in a product also influence the spf, but it is a fun tool to play around with.
  • edited October 2016
    @Peter what are some other ingredients or variables other than sunscreen actives that can affect SPF ratings? What about UVA protection, what variables can affect?

    In Australia, there are no PPD/UVA protection ratings, only "broad spectrum". The same in USA. I have read some places say broad spectrum means UVA protection is 50%, some places say it is 33% of the SPF rating.

    In Australia, SPF 30+ is defined as SPF 31 as per AS/NZS 2604:1998 and SPF 50+ is defined as 60.1 as per AS/NZS 2604:2012

    The rules in Japan is SPF50+ too
    I remember reading it somewhere... I could not find the source. What is particularly worrisome is Japan does not print manufacturing or expiry dates.

    BASF Sunscreen calculator is basic alright! Fun nonetheless! I entered 25% zinc + 25% titanium and got SPF50+, how crazy would it be to have 50% actives, I will be a Mime for sure!

    Just using Zinc alone (maximum is 25%) does not get me the SPF50+ ratings.

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