The same 29 permitted ingredients will continue to be used under the new 2012 sunscreen standards, but with more tightly defined “sun protection factor” (SPF) ratings, extending beyond 50, and controls on broad spectrum approval. Familiar product brands can continue indefinitely, but must declare SPF ratings according to the 1998 standards, even if they would now score SPF 50+, unless the sponsor applies for a new listing.

The SPF is now identified when at least 10 people are protected from UVB radiation sunburn by the nominated factor with 95% consistency. Liberally applied SPF 50+ cream will protect skin from burning for at least 50 times longer than if unprotected. The different SPF ratings and categories under the old and new standards are summarised as:

Protection Category

1998 Standard

2012 Standard


SPF 4 – 7

SPF 4, 6, 8, 10

Moderate (or medium)

SPF 8 – 14

SPF 15, 20, 25


SPF 15 – 29

SPF 30, 40, 50

Very high

SPF 30 or 30+

SPF 50+

Broad spectrum performance is now mandatory for all primary or therapeutic sunscreens listed by the TGA (where the SPF > 15, includes insect repellent, or contains products from human or particular animal organs) as well as cosmetic sunscreens offering high protection. This protects us from the deeper penetration of UVA radiation which is understood to cause long term skin damage and cancers including melanoma.

Nanoparticles of zinc or titanium oxide may be included without declaration as the TGA has determined that they aren’t hazardous when applied to external layers of skin where cells are not viable.

Creams and cosmetics that have the ‘secondary‘ bonus of added sunscreen remain controlled by cosmetic guidelines.

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