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With summer fast approaching now’s the time to find out what you need to know about advertising sunscreens.

Advertisements for a sunscreen that claims or implies that the sunscreen will prevent the following sunburn and/or skin cancer must:

  1. depict sunscreens as being only one part of sun protection; and
  2. include statements or visual representations, prominently displayed or communicated, to the effect that:
    • prolonged high-risk sun exposure should be avoided; and
    • frequent re-application or use in accordance with directions is required for effective sun protection.

Definition of sunscreens

Therapeutic sunscreens are regulated by the TGA.


  • All ‘primary sunscreens’ intended primarily for protection of the skin from the sun’s UV radiation
  • ‘Secondary sunscreens’ that are not ‘cosmetics’ – for example moisturisers containing sunscreen with an SPF greater than 15
  • All sunscreens (SPF4 or more) that contain an insect repellent
  • Sunscreens with ingredients that are from humans or particular organs from:
    • Cows
    • Sheep
    • Goats
    • Mule deer

Cosmetic sunscreens are regulated by National Industrial Chemical Notification & Assessment Scheme and the ACCC

Includes secondary sunscreens that are cosmetics namely:

  • Moisturisers with sunscreen if SPF is 15 or less (pack size no more than 300ml)
  • Sunbathing products with SPF between 4 and 15 (pack size no more than 300ml)
  • Lip balms/lip sticks with sunscreen (any SPF)
  • Make-up products with sunscreen (any SPF)

The ‘takeout message’ in an ad

The takeout message must be considered, not just specific claims. The words and the emphasis given to them, images and presentation of the ad will all need to be considered. 

Is it advertorial or editorial?

If the editorial is written or presented in such a way as to suggest to the reasonable reader that the intention is to promote the use or sale of the sunscreen, it may also be considered as an advertisement and you should obtain additional advice before publishing.

If you say YES to any of the following then the material is likely to be considered an advertisement…

  • Has the material been provided by the supplier, such as a media release?
  • Was there any payment or other valuable consideration provided by the supplier for the publication of the material directly or indirectly?
  • If the material was published without charge to the supplier was this pursuant to any contractual arrangement or understanding under which the supplier would pay for one or more other ads to be published?

Genuine news

Genuine news must be accurate, balanced, factual, impartial and non-promotional, otherwise it could be considered as advertising.

If you say YES to any of the following questions, then the material is likely to be considered bona fide editorial or a bona fide public interest story…

  • Has the material been generated by the publisher without reference to the supplier?
  • Has the information been independently researched and critically assessed, either by a journalist or independent authority?
  • Does the material contain balanced information? 

Unbranded advertising

Branded advertising is where the company or brand associated with the sunscreen being advertised is identifiable in the ad and is the most common type of therapeutic good advertising. Unbranded advertising, while it does not link the sunscreens (including therapeutic ingredients) being advertised with a specific company, it is considered advertising and is subject to the requirements of the Code.

Care is needed to ensure unbranded advertising does not contravene the Code, including section 11, which requires a reference to the name of the therapeutic good. Unbranded advertising is not considered generic information as it is promotional.

Consistency with the ARTG

Advertising needs to be consistent with the product entry on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

For example, an ad that promotes a complementary medicine as having ‘the healing powers of aloe vera’ where the formulation did not include aloe vera would contravene this requirement. Further, the ad would be misleading.


Ads for therapeutic goods must satisfy the following…

  • claims must be valid, and be substantiated
  • claims should be truthful, balanced and not misleading or likely to mislead
  • must be consistent with the ARTG entry of the product.


Advertising claims must…

  • support the safe and proper use of the products
  • not exaggerate product efficacy or performance
  • not be likely to lead to people delaying necessary medical attention or delaying the use of, or failing to use, treatment prescribed by a medical practitioner
  • not encourage inappropriate or excessive use.

Ads must not contain any claim the products…

  • are safe or that their use cannot cause harm, or that they have no side-effects
  • are effective in all cases of a condition or that the outcome is a guaranteed or sure cure
  • are infallible, unfailing or miraculous
  • not being used may result in harmful consequences, unless the claim is permitted.


A testimonial must be made by an identifiable person whose use of the products and claims are verifiable and who is not

  • involved with the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods; or
  • an employee or an individual who is a relative or associate of an individual who is involved with the production, sale, supply or marketing of the goods; and
  • claims made must be typical of the results that can be achieved.

A testimonial must also

  • disclose where any valuable consideration has been given to the person providing the testimonial; and
  • disclose where another person is taking the place in the ad of the person providing the testimonial; and
  • indicate where the original testimonial has been truncated, altered or paraphrased in the ad.
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