Sunscreen Reviews & Ratings

Canstar Blue’s 2018 sunscreen review has seen 10 brands put to the test. Sunscreens from Le Tan, Hamilton, Neutrogena, SunSense, Banana Boat, Cancer Council Australia, Nivea, Coles, Woolworths and ALDI have been rated on their effectiveness, texture, ease of absorption, scent, value for money and overall customer satisfaction.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Most Satisfied Customers | Le Tan

Le Tan has topped Canstar Blue’s customer ratings for sunscreen, achieving five-star reviews for its effectiveness, texture, ease of absorption and scent, with four stars on value for money.

Le Tan on top in 2018 sunscreen review

Aussies love the great outdoors, whether it’s spending a lazy summer’s day by the sea or playing a family game of backyard cricket. But staying sun safe while enjoying time outside is hugely important and that means making sunscreen a regular part of your everyday life. Your life depends on it!

Australia has strict standards for sunscreen set out by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), ensuring that all products found on our supermarket shelves provide adequate protection from the sun. In recent years there have been concerns raised about the effectiveness of certain brands and our latest customer research also reveals that 55% of adults have experienced occasions when sunscreen has not worked properly. It’s not clear, however, whether the problems arose due to the effectiveness of the sunscreen used, or because not enough was applied. Cancer Council Australia recommends that sunscreen be applied 20 minutes before UV exposure and re-applied at least every two hours. To be clear, when we refer to the ‘effectiveness’ of the sunscreen brands featured in our ratings, we’re talking about the perceived effectiveness reported to us by consumers who have bought and used products on offer from them.

Putting testing and controlled environments aside, there are a number of other factors that are worth considering for a product that is advised to be used daily – ease of absorption, scent and texture. As no one enjoys feeling sticky after applying sunscreen, Canstar Blue reviews sunscreen brands based on the overall satisfaction of consumers, making them the expert judges. This year we’ve surveyed more than 1,500 adults to get their opinions on the sunscreen they most recently purchased and used, with their experiences reflected by the star ratings you can see above.

Ten leading brands feature in this year’s review, with Le Tan coming out on top.

  • Le Tan was the only brand to receive five stars for scent, texture and consistency, ease of absorption and overall satisfaction.
  • Le Tan was also one of just two brands to score five stars on effectiveness – the other being Hamilton.
  • Hamilton was joined by Neutrogena, SunSense and ALDI Ombra with four stars for overall satisfaction. However, ALDI was the only brand to receive top marks for value.
  • Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths earned only three stars for overall satisfaction, but both achieved four stars for value. Banana Boat, Cancer Council and Nivea also got three stars for overall satisfaction.

In the previous two years, Hamilton was rated five stars for overall customer satisfaction. This year, it settled for four stars, but still earned top marks for its effectiveness. Le Tan, however, was a clear winner this year, seemingly striking a good blend between quality and price, while naturally appealing to those looking for a sunscreen that is pleasant to use, easy to apply and smells nice.

Which sunscreen should you buy?

It’s important to note that our ratings are not based on science, but instead what everyday consumers think about the sunscreen they use. While effectiveness is hugely important, you may also like to find a sunscreen that is easy to apply, has a pleasant smell and doesn’t cost a fortune. Since Australia has tough labelling standards regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, you can have confidence that the sunscreen you buy does what it claims to do. Our latest survey found that 46% of consumers buy the same brand of sunscreen every time, while 38% simply buy the cheapest available. However, six out of ten (62%) trust big name brands of sunscreen more than the cheaper products.

What you should look for in a sunscreen?

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. According to the Cancer Council, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with a skin cancer by the age of 70. The council recommends that Aussies buy sunscreen labelled broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF 30+ or above. You can also find specific products available for babies due to skin being more sensitive during infancy. And don’t forget about your beloved dog or cat, as their exposure to UV rays can be just as harmful.

Protecting yourself from the sun doesn’t just come down to using sunscreen, but also seeking shade and wearing protective clothing and sunglasses. It’s hugely important to have regular skin checks, especially if you have light skin, lots of moles, or a family history of skin cancer. You might also be interested in an online test developed by Australian researchers that identifies your chances of developing a melanoma. Taking the test could just safe your life!

Does sunscreen expire?

Yes. Sunscreen expiration dates are printed on the bottles to indicate the timeframe of its effectiveness. Storage instructions also must be labelled as it won’t work as well if it’s past the use-by date or has been stored incorrectly. Typically, sunscreen should be out of the sun and at temperatures below 30°C, so not left in the car while you take a dip in the sea.

Sunscreen brands in Australia

The trust you have in a certain brand of sunscreen will clearly have an impact on your purchase decision, but you may also be influenced by the specific products on offer. You might prefer to use an aerosol or roll-on sunscreen rather than a lotion, for example. Some brands have a wide range of products, while others have just one or two different options to choose from. Here is an overview of the products that are offered by the 10 brands in this year’s ratings.

Le Tan

Despite what the name might suggest, Le Tan offers a number of lines of straight up sunscreen, and has done so for more than 40 years. As well as the usual range of 30+ and 50+ products, Le Tan also offers lower SPF levels (SPF15) so you can balance sun protection with your quest for the perfect tan. Sun safety certainly smells great with Le Tan as the coconut sunscreen range has a light coconut fragrance. Le Tan also offers zinc sticks, after sun care products and tanning oils. In terms of price, Le Tan’s sun protection range sits between $10.99 for a 125ml Coconut SPF 15 Lotion and $34.99 for a 950ml bottle of Coconut SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion.

ALDI Ombra

Discount supermarket chain ALDI keeps it simple with a concise range of sunscreen products under the ‘Ombra’ branding. All are rated SPF 50+ and come in lotion or spray varieties. The children’s sunscreen is also available in a roll-on dispenser. ALDI Ombra sunscreen ranges in price from around $3 for the roll on kids variety and $7 for the 175ml sprays. ALDI Ombra has previously topped Canstar Blue’s customer ratings for sunscreen.

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Hamilton

First produced by an Adelaide chemist in the 1920s, the Hamilton sunscreen formula was tested at the University of Adelaide before Hamilton Laboratories was established back in 1932 to begin commercial production. Hamilton claims to be a family-focussed brand, with products for the whole family, babies and toddlers, as well as those with sensitive skin. The entire Hamilton product range is rated SPF 50+ and comes in a choice of lotions, roll-ons and sprays. Its range is usually around $17.95 for the 250ml bottles and $12.95 for the 75g Every Day 50+ Face Cream.

Neutrogena

When you’re desperately trying to fight back against oily skin and clogged up pores, you may find yourself faced with the choice of sunburn or pimples. Neutrogena’s sunscreen range is apparently targeted towards keeping your face clear and dry, while protecting your skin from the sun. The range covers SPF 30+ to 50+ protection, with a light, oil free coverage that is said to absorb quickly. Products include those focussed specifically on sports and kids. There are also sunscreens for breakout-prone skin and for wearing underneath makeup. Neutrogena sunscreen can be found for around $14.99 for a 140g Ultra Sheer SPF 50+ Sunscreen Spray and $23.99 for the 88ml Sheer Zinc Lotion.

SunSense

SunSense started out as a family business in 1953. Now part of Ego pharmaceuticals, it produces a wide range of sunscreen products designed to care for your skin beyond just keeping UV rays away, including sunscreens that are claimed to fight the symptoms of ageing, moisturise dry skin, or produce a sheer tinted matte finish for oily and combination skin. SunSense also caters for a number of more traditional sunscreen needs, including sports (with sand and sweat resistance). It also has products for juniors (for delicate skin) and others for sensitive skin (including that of babies). SunSense is a previous winner of Canstar Blue’s award for sunscreen brands. You can find SunSense 75g Sport SPF 50+ Sunscreen for $8.95 while a 500ml bottle can cost around $25.15.

Banana Boat

All Banana Boat sunscreens are rated at SPF 50+ (except for the Aloe Lip Balm at SPF 30+) and all of them are four hours water resistant. The range includes specially tailored products for sensitive skin, babies’ skin, kids’ skin, and faces, as well as for use during sports, beach trips and other heavy duty sun exposure. With products coming in tubes, aerosol sprays, pump bottles, spray bottles, roll-ons, and lip balms, there are plenty of options. Prices start from $4.49 for the 40g Sport SPF 50+ Tube and max out at $21.99 for the 400g bottles.

Cancer Council Australia

The Cancer Council produces a wide range of sunscreen products in tubes, sprays and aerosols. They include the Everyday SPF 30+ range, Classic SPF 50+, the Active SPF 50+ quick-dry and water resistant sunscreen for exercise and oily skin, Face Day Wear SPF 50+ sunscreen in either untinted, light tint or medium tint, the Water Sport SPF 50+ featuring everyone’s favourite fishy friend, Dory, and the Kids SPF 50+ range. Peppa Pig also has her own line of Cancer Council sunscreens for kids. Its Everyday SPF 30+ Sunscreen range starts from $5.95 while the Work Sunscreen range can cost up to $43.50 for a 1L pump bottle.

Coles

For more affordable sun protection, Coles covers all the basics. Its Everyday SPF 50+ sunscreen comes in 1L or 500mL pump packs so you can stock up nicely for the long summer. The Coles range also includes a light feel SPF 30+ lotion, moisturising SPF 50+ lotion for dry skin, ‘kid-friendly’ SPF 50+ trigger spray sunscreen and SPF 30+ facial sunscreen. The Coles 1L Everyday SPF 50+ Sunscreen is priced at just $9.00, with a 100ml Moisturising SPF 50+ option available for $3.00.

Nivea

As a skincare brand, a number of Nivea products contain vitamin E to sooth and repair damaged or dry skin. For every day wear, the lightweight sunscreen products can be worn underneath makeup or on their own without that heavy, sticky feeling. Nivea spray-on sunscreen can be found in SPF 15, 30 and 50 ratings, while lotions come in either SPF 30+ or 50+. Children’s, beach and sports sunscreens are water resistant for long-lasting protection. Its standard 200ml spray bottles are priced at $17.99 and you can find the sun kids roll on sunscreen for $10.99.

Woolworths

Woolworths has a wide range of sunscreens for different skin types and sun protection needs at very affordable prices. Woolworths’ general use SPF 50+ sunscreen comes in 1L and 500mL pump bottles, 100mL tubes and 175g sprays. The range also covers sports sunscreen, kids’ sunscreen and babies’ sunscreen in the form of various lotions, sprays and roll-ons. There’s also clear zinc cream and coloured zinc sticks. The Woolworths 100ml tube starts at $3.00 with the 1L sunscreen pump bottle costing $9.00.

The aim of our review is to help consumers make more informed purchase decisions. When you next buy sunscreen, it’s worth keeping these ratings in mind because they simply reflect the real life experiences of the people who took part in this survey. Used correctly, all of the brands featured in this review should keep you adequately safe in the sun. But some might be better at it than others.

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Frequently asked questions

Canstar Blue surveyed 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used sunscreen in the last 12 months – in this case, 1,655 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

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