Tests of UV filters in sunscreens for babies and children still questionable

test procedure

We bought 20 children’s sunscreens from pharmacies, (organic) supermarkets, pharmacies and health food stores, including three certified natural cosmetics. We prefer to use fragrance-free products or products that are advertised as sensitive and have a high or very high sun protection factor (SPF) of 50 or 50+.

Using the list of ingredients mandatory for cosmetics manufacturers, a laboratory checked whether the creams contained problematic substances such as questionable UV filters. We had the products analyzed in the laboratory for, among other things, halogenated organic compounds and formaldehyde/formaldehyde releasers, which can still be used as preservatives in children’s cosmetics. We also measured whether large amounts of the suspected carcinogen benzophenone were formed in creams with the UV filter octocrylene.

To find out whether any nanomaterial is correctly declared on sunscreens with the mineral filters titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, the commissioned laboratory used a method described in the EU project “NanoDefine”. Finally, we checked whether all the important application and warning instructions that help prevent skin cancer are printed on the bottles, tubes or boxes. What we do not order for sun creams is a user test because it causes sunburn in test subjects. The common filter substances are effective. The biggest difference in protection comes from applying the product liberally.

rating legend

Unless otherwise stated, the devaluation limits mentioned here are not legal limits, but rather those set by ÖKO-TEST. The devaluation limits were set by ÖKO-TEST taking into account the measurement uncertainties resulting from specific studies and the deviations inherent in the method.

Evaluation test result ingredients: Under the test result, ingredients lead to a devaluation of five qualities: “Silver chloride applied to titanium dioxide” in products for children that do not expressly exclude use for children under three years of age. According to Annex V to the EU cosmetics regulation, the preservative must not be used in products for children under three years of age. Leads to devaluation by two marks each: a) PEG/PEG derivatives; b) questionable UV filters (here: homosalat); c) a measured content of more than 100 mg/kg benzophenone. The following lead to a devaluation of one note each: a) questionable UV filters (here: octocrylene); b) more than one percent silicone compounds and/or paraffins/artificial paraffinic substances.

Evaluation test result Additional defects: During the test result Additional defects lead to a devaluation of two qualities: silicones, if not already due to silicones during the test result ingredients were devalued and/or synthetic polymers as additional plastic compounds (here: acrylates copolymer, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl acrylate crosspolymer, acrylates/ vinyl neodecanoate crosspolymer, ammonium polyacryloyl dimethyl taurate, C12-22 alkyl acrylate/hydroxyethyl acrylate copolymer, dimethicone, hydrogenated polyisobutene, poly C10-30 alkyl acrylate, silica dimethyl silylate, triacontanyl polymer, VP copolymer/copolymer, VPH copolymer, triacontanyl polymer). Lead to a devaluation of one grade each: a) Outer carton that does not protect glass; b) the absence of one or more of the following instructions for use and warnings in accordance with the recommendations of the Industry Association for Personal Care and Cleaning Products (IKW) on the packaging or on the package insert: 1 = avoid intense midday sun. 2 = Apply before sunbathing. 3 = Reapply repeatedly to maintain sun protection, especially after being in the water. 4 = Apply plenty of sunscreen. Small application amounts reduce the protective performance. 5 = Protect babies and toddlers from direct sunlight. 6 = Use protective clothing and sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (SPF greater than 25) for babies and small children. 7 = Even sunscreens with high sun protection factors do not provide complete protection against UV rays; c) Lack of indication “nano” for titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide in the list of ingredients in accordance with the EU cosmetics regulation 1223/2009 and the EU Commission’s recommendation 2011/696 on the definition of nanomaterial, if the titanium dioxide or zinc oxide contained in the products is zinc oxide measured to be more than 50 percent nano-form; d) a proportion of recycled products (post-consumer recycle, PCR) of less than 30 percent in relation to the total weight of the plastic packaging, or no information about this or insufficient proof of this at our request.

The overall judgment based on the ingredients of the test result. A test result of other deficiencies that is “inadequate” lowers the overall rating by two marks. An “Additional Defects” test result that is “adequate” lowers the overall rating by one grade. A test result that is “good” does not detract from the overall rating. For legal reasons, we would like to point out that we have not checked the effects of the products promised by the manufacturers.

test methods

Test methods (depending on the composition of the products):

Declarable fragrances/diethyl phthalate/polycyclic musk and nitromusk compounds/cashmeran: Extraction with TBME, GC-MS.

Delta-3-carene: ultrasonic extraction with tert-butyl methyl ether, GC-MS.

Halogen-organic compounds: a) Hot water extraction with subsequent centrifugation and membrane filtration, binding of the organic halogens to activated carbon, combustion of the activated carbon in a stream of oxygen, microcoulometric determination of the halogen content; b) Extraction with ethyl acetate, combustion of the extract in a stream of oxygen, microcoulometric determination of the halogen content.

Formaldehyde/formaldehyde split: acidic steam distillation, derivatization with acetylacetone, extraction with n-butanol and determination by photometry.

Silicones/paraffins/petroleum products: LC-RI after extraction (possibly GC-MS) or LC-CG/FID (paraffins).

Parabens: LC-UV.

Petroleum Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOAH): LC-GC/FID.

Elements: total digestion in microwave, elemental determination ICP-MS.

Other ingredients: as stated.

PVC/PVDC/chlorinated compounds in packaging: X-ray fluorescence analysis.

Purchase of the test products: March 2022

We last published this test in ÖKO-TEST Magazine 6/2022. Update of test results/information for the 2023 yearbook if the providers have announced product changes or the assessment of failure has changed due to new scientific findings or we have conducted new/additional studies.

Tests and their results are protected by copyright. Reprints, copies, microfilms or recordings in electronic media may not be made and/or distributed without written permission from the publisher.

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