UK report highlights need to simplify sunscreen labelling

Related tags Sunscreen Cancer research uk

With the latest market survey revealing that more than 70 per cent
of Britons do not know what the UV index represents for weather
forecasts, aims to harmonise and simplify the present SPF standard
for sunscreen products are now all the more pressing, reports
Simon Pitman.

In the UK and many parts of Europe weather forecasts now specify what the UV index is during summer and hotter weather, in an effort to help individuals gauge the sun's strength and help prevent burning themselves. But for many this only adds to confusion that already exists over the current EU SPF Standard.

In the UK the UV index ranges from 1 - being the lowest - and 20 - being the highest. However, many individuals claim that, alongside current EU SPF standards, the IV index leaves them confused. Likewise, the present EU SPF standard was introduced in 2003, but with confusion also abouding there are already plans afoot to further simplify this system, too.

Results of the survey, commissioned by UK cosmetics and personal care retailer Boots to support Cancer Research UK's​ SunSmart campaign, were released in conjunction with the UK's Sun Awareness Week. Currently the UK has Europe's second highest rate of skin cancer, a statistic that many medical experts believe reflects a continued lack of education and uncertainty about sun protection.

To help British people identify their skin type, both Boots​ and Cancer Research UK have devised a 'Celebrity UV Guide', which matches the skin type of well known media figures to show when they should be protecting themselves from the sun.

Figures such as Renee Zellweger and Prince Harry were associated with being 'very fair skin types that burn easily. According to the guide it is recommended that this skin type should cover up between 11am and 3pm when the UV Index reaches 2-3 or higher.

Likewise Jennifer Aniston and Tom Cruise were categorized as being fair but tanned more easily. The guide advises that they should cover up between 11am and 3pm when the sun index reaches 3 or higher.

The other two categories were olive skin, characterized by Jennifer Lopez and advised to cover up if the UV index goes above 5, and black skin types such as Naomi Campbell, who are advised to cover up when the UV Index goes above 6.

Reflecting on the results of the survey, a Cancer Research UK statement said: "It is particularly worrying that over 70 per cent of people with fair skin , who are most at risk of skin cancer, do not know what the UV index is. Fair skinned people can burn in as little as 30 minutes when the UV index is seven and it is important that they take extra care at all times of the day when the UV index is high. With more than 70,000 new cases registered each year, it is crucial people know when to cover up."

At Colipa's​ annual general meeting, held in Budapest last week, Romano Mascotto, chairman of organisation's Project Team Sunscreens Issues, highlighted how the organisation is also aiming to simplify the European SPF standard in an effort to avoid consumer confusion.

In a move that mirrors consumer organisations and industry players in both the UK and all over Europe, Colipa is responding to pressure to make the sun protection a simplified process to follow.

"The EU has not yet fully harmonized the labelling and testing of sun protection products in line with international standards,"​ Mascotto said. "Colipa is now working with the relevant EU authorities to reach agreed standards on practices regarding this."

Currently the EU SPF standard has been adopted by the cosmetics and personal care industries in Japan and South Africa and the organisation is working to extend this agreement to include Australia, China and the US.

But Mascotto also revealed that there are short comings in the current standard, which Colipa is working towards addressing. Like Cancer Research UK, the organisation wants to refine current SPF guidelines, by stressing what type of protection they provide.

This would mean SPFs in the range 2-6 would be given 'Low' protection, 8-12 'Medium', 15-25 'High', 30-50 'Very High' and 50+ 'Ultra'.

Further to this, Colipa is also lobbying to have the word 'sunblock' abolished, as it could mislead consumers, as well as instilling a system to ensure that UVA protection is at safe proportions to the overall SPF rating. It is recommending an SPF to UVA protection ratio of 1:3.

With skin cancer rates continuing to rise throughout Europe and the rest of the world, such moves should not only help to ensure a stronger future for the sunscreen category, it could also help to save lives.

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