New study suggests sunbathers do not use sunscreens correctly

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skin Ultraviolet

A new study by UK charity Restoriation of Appearance and Function
Trust (RAFT) suggests that most sunscreen users do not use products
adequately enough to fully protect themselves form cancer-causing
UVA rays.

According to the organisation's most recent study, which is supplementary to research work published in 2003 highlighting the need for better UVA protection, its researchers have concluded that rubbing sunscreen into the skin actually limits protection against UVA.

Typically people rub sunscreen thoroughly into the skin, believing that it is more effective against the sun's rays and also because it is more comfortable and less apparent.

However, the RAFT researchers suggest that applying an even film of sunscreen to the skin and not rubbing in actually provides more protection, particularly against UVA rays.

When rubbed into the skin, the protection afforded by sunscreens against UVA is minimal because the sunscreen accumulates in lines and sweat glands, thus actually reducing overall coverage.

The researchers also pointed out that when sunscreen is rubbed into the skin, it can fool people into believing that they have more sun protection than they are led to believe.

This is because when rubbed into the skin sunscreen readily provides adequate protection against UVB rays, which in turn prevents the skin from reddening and burning.

However, the fact that this protection exists might fool individuals into believing that their skin is completely protected, when in fact protection against UVA rays - those that that can cause the skin to age and lead to skin cancer - may not be adequate.

The research, which used human skin disguarded after surgery, also found that another area to consider was the threat posed by visible light, particularly in view of the fact that the organisation has discovered that on-third of the damaging free radicals posed by sunlight are actually found in this component of sunlight.

Likewise, it points out that the rapid depletion of vitamin C through exposure to sunlight is another possible reason for sunbathers to be cautious.

As an anti-oxidant, vitamin C acts as the body's 'mopping-up device' providing protection so finding ways of prolonging its efficacy under sun exposure is another area the researchers say could prove very useful for the future.

In 1935 the rate of skin cancer was approximately one in 1500 deaths, that incidence is predicted to hit one in 50 deaths by 2010. It is statistics like this that make the battle to find more effective ways of preventing skin cancer from sun exposure an absolute imperative, says the organisation.

RAFT says it wants to work in co-operation with suncare manufacturers to improve sun protection and educate consumers, but in the meantime its message to sun seekers is to use a good broad spectrum sunscreen with a high UVA rating and not to stay out too long in the sun. "At least not until we have better sunscreens more suitable for prolonged sunbathing,"​ a RAFT spokesperson said.

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