Long-term exposure to sunlight – in particular, to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – can cause skin aging, sunburn, darkening and even skin cancer.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of these potential risks and are seeking to protect themselves by applying sunscreen products. By working with SGS’s Hamburg laboratory to verify their products’ sun protection claims, manufacturers can build consumer confidence in their brands.

Different types of UV radiation

UV radiation can be divided into three main groups: ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC).

UVA can penetrate skin layers, damaging cells. It is associated with skin aging (photoaging).

UVB rays have shorter wavelengths when compared to UVA rays. UVB penetrates the outermost skin layers and is responsible not only for sunburn but also for the synthesis of vitamin D and the stimulation of melanin secretion (tanning).

UVC rays react with ozone high in the atmosphere and therefore do not usually reach the ground (unless they come from man-made sources), so they are not normally a risk factor for skin cancer. About 95% of the UV rays from the sun that reach the ground are UVA rays, with the remaining 5% being UVB rays.

Sunscreen Testing at SGS’s Hamburg Laboratory

SGS’s Hamburg lab offers a wide range of in vivo and in vitro sunscreen tests, performed in accordance with the latest Cosmetics Europe (formerly COLIPA) guidelines or international standards (ISO). All tests are conducted by experienced technicians using state-of-the-art equipment.

More about our innovative testing methods:

In Vivo Testing Services

SGS’s Hamburg lab offers the following in vivo sunscreen tests:

  • Sun protection factor (SPF) determination according to the international SPF Test method (Cosmetics Europe, formerly COLIPA) and ISO guideline (ISO 24444: 2019)
  • Determination of water-resistant properties (whirlpool,) according to COLIPA 2005 or ISO 18861:2020
  • Determination of UVA protection factors according to ISO 24443: 2021 and Boots Star Rating (2011 Revision)
  • Sun protection at the cellular level:
    • Photo-aging (elastic fibers and collagen destruction)
    • UV-induced immunosuppression (Langerhans cells and functionality of the skin immune system)
    • UV-induced immunomodulation (expression of inflammatory and immunoregulatory cytokines)
    • Sunburn cell formation
    • Immunohistological analyses of UV-induced DNA-damage (detection of thymine dimers as a measure for DNA damage in the nuclei of keratinocytes)
    • Detection of biomarkers for oxidative stress in the interstitial fluid by ELISA (8-isoprostane as a marker for lipid peroxidation, carbonyl proteins as marker for protein oxidation)
    • Expression of metallo-proteinases (MMPs)
    • Pigmentation and whitening (effect on melanogenesis)

In Vitro Determination of UVA Protection

SGS’s Hamburg lab provides in vitro tests using a Labsphere UV-2000S Ultraviolet Transmittance Analyzer. This is a spectrophotometer that instantaneously measures diffuse UV transmittance in wavelengths ranging from 250-450nm. With a compact benchtop footprint and minimal upkeep required, the UV Analyzer is ideal for both research and development (R&D) and production quality assurance/quality control (QA/QC) testing.

This testing system incorporates a xenon flash lamp to provide exceptional diffuse illumination of the product sample and minimize data integration time. A new high-performance diode array spectrometer – coupled with advanced fiber optics – has been optimized for low stray light with superior wavelength stability and repeatability.

The testing system (and accompanying application software) provides accurate and repeatable measurements that take fewer than five seconds, as well as accurate sample positioning. Measurements can capture six relevant spectral bands of wavelength before the software automatically conducts all necessary calculations.

It enables fast measurement - in line with well-established national, international or industry in vitro UVA test methods, such as ISO 24443: 2021, COLIPA UVA/PF and Boots Star Rating (2011 Revision) - for sunscreen products that have been developed to provide broad-spectrum protection (and which will feature labels claiming the product offers the highest level of sun protection).

Alternative In Vitro SPF Testing Method in Validation Process

For UVB testing, the current gold standard for sun protection factor (SPF), ISO 24444, involves testing on human subjects (in vivo testing). This makes the procedure time-consuming, complex and costly. SGS and other international partners have been collaborating in a technical consortium to develop a new, less invasive, more precise in vitro testing method than ISO 24444. We hope to provide this testing service in the near future. Until then, our Hamburg lab offers in vitro SPF screening based on SGS’s internal protocol for the purpose of product development.

Other In Vitro Methods

Combined with a suction blister method, our Hamburg lab also provides analysis of:

  • UV-induced immunomodulation (expression of inflammatory and immunoregulatory cytokines in suction blister fluids)
  • Cell formation in suction blister biopsies
  • UV-induced DNA damage in suction blister biopsies (detection of thymine dimers as a measure of DNA damage in the nuclei of keratinocytes)

Our Sunscreen Testing Expertise

SGS is at the forefront of the sunscreen testing industry. Our technical experts are constantly pushing the boundaries of innovation. Our Hamburg laboratory’s extensive testing and compliance services allow sunscreen manufacturers to verify claims, comply with regulatory requirements and boost consumer confidence.

To find out more about SGS’s sunscreen testing expertise, please get in touch:

Zheng Hu
Global Technical Manager
t: +49 (0)179 687 9102

About SGS

We are SGS – the world’s leading testing, inspection and certification company. We are recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. Our 96,000 employees operate a network of 2,600 offices and laboratories, working together to enable a better, safer and more interconnected world.