Best-Rated Sunscreens

Compare sunscreens from the Cancer Council, Neutrogena, Cetaphil, Coles, Nivea, Banana Boat, SunSense and Woolworths on their effectiveness, ease of absorption, texture and consistency, smell & scent, value for money and overall satisfaction.

See Our Ratings Methodology

Best sunscreen 2021

Most Satisfied Customers | Cancer Council & Neutrogena

Cancer Council & Neutrogena jointly topped Canstar Blue’s review of sunscreens, both rating best for overall satisfaction. Cancer Council also rated five stars for effectiveness and smell, while Neutrogena got top marks for ease of absorption and texture and consistency.

Fact Checked Fact Checked

Cancer Council & Neutrogena both shine as best-rated sunscreens

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 routine. Your life literally depends on it!

Australia has very 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 some brands, and our latest customer research also reveals that nearly a quarter of adults (24%) have experienced occasions when sunscreen has not worked for them properly. It’s not clear, however, whether the problems arose due to the effectiveness of the sunscreen used, or because not enough was applied to exposed areas.

Cancer Council Australia recommends that sunscreen should 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 brands compared in our ratings, we are talking about the perceived effectiveness reported to us by consumers who have bought and used sunscreen products from the brands mentioned.

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, including texture, ease of absorption, and of course, value for money.

As no one enjoys feeling sticky after applying sunscreen (or paying too much for it), Canstar Blue reviews sunscreen brands based on the overall satisfaction of consumers, making them the expert judges. This year, we’ve surveyed nearly 1,300 adults to get their opinions on the sunscreen(s) they most recently purchased and used. Brands that received the minimum number of 30 responses are featured below.

Aussies rated Cancer Council & Neutrogena best for sunscreen, with both brands scoring five-star reviews for overall customer satisfaction and across various key factors.

Best sunscreen brands in Australia

What is the best sunscreen

Here are the best sunscreens in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s 2021 review:

  1. Cancer Council & Neutrogena
  2. Cetaphil
  3. Coles
  4. Nivea
  5. Banana Boat
  6. SunSense
  7. Woolworths

The Cancer Council & Neutrogena were rated joint winners in our sunscreens ratings after both brands received five stars for overall satisfaction. Cancer Council also received top marks for effectiveness and smell, while Neutrogena earned five stars for ease of absorption and texture and consistency.

Other noteworthy performances included Coles which was the only brand to score five stars for value for money, while Nivea also received top scores for smell and scent, and texture and consistency.

Top sunscreen brands

Cancer Council Australia

Cancer Council Australia sunscreen review

The Cancer Council produces a wide range of sunscreen products in tubes, sprays and pump bottles that offer broad-spectrum protection. They include the Everyday SPF 50+ range, Zinc Stick SPF 50+ and the Active SPF 50+ quick-dry and water-resistant sunscreen for exercise and oily skin.

It also has Face Day Wear SPF 50+ sunscreen in either untinted, light tint, medium tint, or untinted water-resistant varieties. In addition, there’s a Water Sport SPF 50+ claimed to be tested for up to four hours of water resistance, and the Kids’ SPF 50+ range, stated to be dermatologically tested and comes in either a pump, roll-on, or tube form. The Cancer Council SPF 50+ sunscreen price range starts from $6.50 while the Work Sunscreen range can cost up to $43.50 for a 1L pump bottle. Proceeds from purchases go towards cancer research and services.

  • Cancer Council achieved five stars for effectiveness, smell and scent and overall satisfaction. It got four stars for ease of absorption, texture and consistency and value for money.

Neutrogena

Neutrogena sunscreen review

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 specifically designed to keep 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. It also includes products for people who play sports and for kids. There are also sunscreens for breakout-prone skin and for wearing underneath makeup as well as body lotions. Neutrogena sunscreen can be found for around $14.50 for the Ultra Sheer SPF 50+ Sunscreen Spray (140g) and $23.99 for the 88ml Sheer Zinc Lotion.

  • Neutrogena was rated five stars for ease of absorption, texture and consistency, and overall satisfaction. It got four stars for smell and scent, effectiveness and value for money.

Cetaphil

Cetaphil sunscreen review

Dermatological brand Cetaphil offers Cetaphil Sun, a sunscreen range that caters to various skin types, skin textures and skin sensitivities. There are two products within the range – the Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Ultra-light Lotion (100ml) formulated for very sensitive or oily skin, and the Cetaphil Sun SPF50+ Kids’ Liposomal Lotion (150ml) with high UV protection formulated for kid’s delicate skin. Both products are non-greasy, fragrance-free, and offer up to four hours of water resistance.

  • Cetaphil scored four stars for effectiveness, texture and consistency, value for money and overall satisfaction. It got four stars for ease of absorption and smell and scent.

Coles

Coles sunscreen review

For more affordable sun protection, Coles covers all the basics. The supermarket’s 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 SPF 50+ sunscreen for sensitive skin, as well as a facial sunscreen, claimed to be dermatologically tested. Plus, there’s an SPF 50+ four-hour water-resistant sunscreen.

The line-up includes mainly pump bottles and lotions, although there are also finger sprays and roll-ons available in select stores. The Coles 1L Everyday SPF 50+ Sunscreen is priced at just $8.50, with a 100ml Moisturising SPF 50+ option available for $2.25.

  • Coles earned five stars for value for money and four stars in the remaining categories including for overall satisfaction.

Nivea

Nivea sunscreen review

As a skincare brand, a number of Nivea products contain vitamin E to soothe and repair damaged or dry skin. Its range consists of a Kids’, Protect & Moisture, UV Face and Sun Protection line. For everyday wear, the sunscreen products can be worn underneath makeup or on their own without that heavy, sticky feeling.

Nivea’s 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.

  • Nivea was rated five stars for smell and scent and texture and consistency. It got four stars for effectiveness, ease of absorption and overall satisfaction, plus three stars for value for money.

Banana Boat

Banana Boat sunscreen review

Most Banana Boat sunscreens are rated at SPF 50+ 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 to pick from. Prices start from $4.49 for the 40g Sport SPF 50+ Tube and max out at $21.99 for the 400g bottles.

  • Banana Boat achieved four stars across the majority of the board, including for effectiveness and overall satisfaction. The only exception was value for money, where it rated three stars.

SunSense

SunSense sunscreen review

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 skin.

SunSense also caters to a number of more traditional sunscreen needs, including sports, with sand and sweat resistance. It also has products for juniors, including babies, as well as other sunscreen types for those with sensitive skin. You can find SunSense 75g Sport SPF 50+ Sunscreen for $8.95, while a 500ml bottle can cost around $25. There’s also an Aftersun range to help soothe and hydrate sun-exposed skin.

  • SunSense achieved four stars for effectiveness and three stars in the remaining categories including overall satisfaction.

Woolworths

Woolworths sunscreen review

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 and kids’ sunscreens in the form of various lotions, sprays and roll-ons. There’s also clear zinc cream and coloured, pink and blue zinc sticks. The Woolworths 100ml tube starts at $3 with the 1L sunscreen pump bottle costing $9.

  • Woolworths scored four stars for value for money and three stars for overall satisfaction and everywhere else.

Other sunscreen brands

The brands we featured in our latest report aren’t the only ones worth considering, so here are a couple more:

Hamilton

Hamilton sunscreen review

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.

The entire Hamilton product range is rated SPF 50+ and comes in a choice of lotions, roll-ons and sprays. There’s also a Skin Therapy range, claimed to be dermatologist-recommended, plus soap and sulphate-free. Its range is usually around $17.95 for the 250ml bottles and $12.95 for the 75g Everyday 50+ Face Cream.

ALDI Ombra

ALDI Ombra sunscreen review

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, with its 1L Family Pack is stated to be water-resistant.

Aside from the Family Pack, Ombra’s Everyday, Sensitive and Ultra Sport varieties are sold in 100ml and 500ml bottles. There’s also lip balm sunscreen and coconut-scented sunscreen and oil sprays on offer at ALDI. The children’s sunscreen is also available in a roll-on dispenser. ALDI Ombra sunscreen ranges in price from around $3 for the 100ml roll-on to $7 for the 175ml sprays.

Sunscreen buying guide

Which sunscreen should you buy?

It’s important to note that our ratings are not based on science, but instead on what everyday consumers like yourself 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 its very tough labelling standards regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, you can have confidence that the sunscreen you buy does what it is claimed to do.

Our latest survey found a whopping 49% of Aussies take sun safety seriously, with 43% also taking other measures to protect themselves from the sun. This includes things like wearing a hat and swim shirt. One in four (26%) also regularly have their skin checked for skin cancers or skin damage.

When it comes to slapping on sunscreen, two-fifths (40%) of respondents admit they understand how SPF ratings work. A similar number of consumers only stick to SPF 50+ products (45%).

Our survey also found that a quarter of Aussies (25%) like to buy the same brand of sunscreen every time, while 16% pick whichever product is the cheapest or on sale.

How does sunscreen work?

How does sunscreen work?

According to the Cancer Council, sunscreen works by either reflecting or absorbing UV rays, depending on which type of sunscreen you use. This is achieved by the sunscreen’s active ingredient, which is commonly referred to as either a UV absorber or UV reflector. UV absorbers work by absorbing the UV radiation and converting it into a low level of heat, while UV reflectors scatter the UV rays to prevent them from reaching your skin.

UV absorbers are also referred to as ‘organic’ as they contain carbon atoms, which help with absorption, while UV reflectors are traditionally made up of oxides, such as zinc oxide and titanium oxide. However, most sunscreens are made up of multiple active ingredients, offering additional protection against most types of UV rays.

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 can also check out resources including the Cancer Council website, which has a guide on how to check your skin, plus extra information on what different types of skin cancers look like and other useful tidbits. Checking your skin could just save your life!

When should I apply sunscreen?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin 30 minutes before you head outside, even if the weather is cloudy. If you’re planning on being outside for a long period of time, you should look to re-apply sunscreen every two hours, or immediately after you’ve been swimming or excessively sweating.

How much sunscreen should I use?

According to SunSmart, the average-sized adult should use around 35ml for a full-body application – which includes your head, neck, each limb as well as the front and back of the body – or a teaspoon per body part.

Does sunscreen expire?

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

The bottom line on sunscreen

It’s easy to blame everyone but ourselves when it comes to getting sunburnt, but proper sun protection starts with taking responsibility, for you and your children. Finding the best sunscreen for your needs is part of the challenge because the last thing you’ll want is for applying sunscreen to become a chore! If you’re not sure about which brand and type of sunscreen is the best for you, our review is a good place to start.

You’ll find lots of guidance online about which sunscreen brands you should or shouldn’t buy, and we’d suggest considering a wide range of reviews. And it’s worth keeping these ratings in mind the next time you go out to buy sunscreen, as these reflect the real-world 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 than others, particularly if you have sensitive skin or you want to look your best in those beach shots. As a result, be sure to research a wide variety of different brands as you might find a brand, or type, that is better for your needs, or your skin. At the end of the day, we all want to have a bit of fun in the sun, but sunscreen can make sure you don’t regret that time outside.

About the author of this page

Megan Birot

This report was written by Canstar Blue’s Home & Lifestyle Content Lead, Megan Birot. She’s an expert on household appliances, health & beauty products, as well as all things grocery and shopping. When she’s not writing up our research-based ratings reports, Megan spends her time helping consumers make better purchase decisions, whether it’s at the supermarket, other retailers, or online, highlighting the best deals and flagging anything you need to be aware of.

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Photo Credit: Tymonko Galyna/shutterstock.com, TravnikovStudio/shutterstock.com.

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, 1,296 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 by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

Here are the past winners of Canstar Blue’s sunscreens  review:

  • 2020: SunSense
  • 2019: Neutrogena & SunSense
  • 2018: Le Tan
  • 2017: Hamilton
  • 2016: ALDI Ombra & Hamilton
  • 2015: SunSense
  • 2014: SunSense
  • 2013: Avon
  • 2011: Hamilton

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