As the debate on inadequate sunscreens in South Africa rages on, Clicks has confirmed that it is reformulating its own brand to increase protection against cancer-causing UVA rays.
Research commissioned by the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) showed that some SA sunscreen brands do not offer enough protection. All of the brands tested by Cansa complied with the local SANS sunscreen standard, but Cansa said that recent research rendered that standard insufficient because it didn’t give protection against “extreme” (longer) UVA rays.
The COLIPA Standard, a testing method involving pre-irradiation (heating the sunscreen before testing it) is now required in Europe. Cansa says this is the most stringent test currently in use. The first COLIPA testing was done five years ago.
But some local sunscreens are still not complying with the standard, according to the Cansa tests. This means that South Africans using some sunscreens are not getting protection against dangerous UVA rays, which contribute to skin cancer. The COLIPA standard has been incorporated into new ISO standards, which will be required in South Africa from next year.
The Cancer Association came under fire for not releasing the names of the suspect sunscreens because it signed a confidentiality agreement with the laboratory that ran the tests. But Cansa undertook to publish the list of compliant products next week.
German group Beiersdorf and SA company Incolabs, which together control the lion’s share of the local sunscreen market, have both maintained that their products will be on that list.
Beiersdorf produces Nivea, which represents 36% of local sunscreen sales, and Incolabs manufactures Tropitone and Everysun, with shares of 22% and 20%, respectively. The Clarins brand by GBP Cosmetics has a share of 6%.
According to Norel Landman, marketing director of Incolabs, the company’s 27 sunscreen products (all manufactured in SA) comply with both the European (COLIPA) and local SANS 1557 standards – and they have the certificates to prove it.
The marketing director of Beiersdorf South Africa, Laurens van den Berg, also confirmed that all the Nivea Sun and Eucerin Sun products (manufactured in Europe) comply.
This has shifted speculation that some imported products, and perhaps even rebranded products sold as in-house brands by retailers, may not have the necessary UVA protection.
Clicks has been named as one of the culprits.
The company said in a statement that its Sunprotect range complies with SANS regulations, the ISO and SABS standards – but not to the COLIPA standard. Sunprotect is manufactured by Creighton Products, which also supplies the in-house brands for Spar, Pick n Pay and Mr. Price.
“In June 2012, new more robust ISO standards for testing sunscreen products were published by the EU, which will come into effect in SA in 2013. Testing procedures continue to evolve, and Clicks will be subjecting all Sunprotect products to the new rigorous requirements for efficacy substantiation in order to comply with the new standard. We are currently reformulating all products and having them tested as per the published ISO standard,” Clicks said.
Retailer Baby City’s Michel Aronoff says his group sells Tropitone, Everysun and Annique Baby Suncare, all of which are compliant with COLIPA. The sunscreens manufactured by the Bennett Brothers, including the SPF 40 Roll-on for Babies, have been approved in terms of SABS standards – but do not seem to comply with the COLIPA standard.
Van den Berg says stricter measures to regulate sunscreens would be welcome in SA. “South Africa is one of few markets we operate in that doesn’t require submission of test results.”
“Anyone can mix a formulation, put it in a tube and sell it as sunscreen,” said another industry insider.
There have been fears expressed that more stringent requirements could push up sunscreen prices, already a luxury item for many households.
But there may be a pleasant surprise in store for consumers this summer.
Landman says in light of the current suncare compliance debate, her company has decided to make its products, which are compliant, much more affordable. “Due to our brand positioning being family focused, we have decided to reduce our marketing spend and pass these savings on to consumers.”
Beiersdorf, which manufactures Nivea and Eucerin, is affected by the rand’s weakening against the euro. But Van den Berg says the company plans to absorb most of the higher costs and keep prices stable and plans no major price increases.
One industry representative, who wanted to remain anonymous, says the sunscreen market in SA has seen relatively slow growth. This is despite a growing awareness about the importance of protection among especially black consumers. Most African skins have a natural sun protection factor (SPF), dependent on the level of melanin in the skin. Depending on the darkness of the skin, the natural self-protection can be as high as SPF 12, but SPF protection between 20 and 50 is needed to prevent damage, depending on the amount of time spent in the sun.
Van den Berg encourages consumers to not hesitate buying sunscreen because of these recent debates.
Landman is particularly concerned by the dispersions cast on locally produced sunscreens. “We are proudly South African and all our products are manufactured here, adhering to local SANS 1557 requirements as well as COLIPA standards.”