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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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sunbatheMay 31 2016

Sun creams should not be able to use the terms ‘once-a-day’ or ‘eight-hour’, the consumer organisation Which? has said.

It has issued the warning after testing a number of sun cream products against duration claims made by manufacturers. It noted that there is no universal approach or standard that manufacturers have to adhere to. In addition to conducting its usual sun cream tests for sun protection factor claims, Which? also assessed SPF on subjects at the end of the period (six or eight hours) claimed for protection by the manufacturers. Subjects had worn a tee-shirt over the applied sun cream in the testing laboratory.

On testing the subjects at the end of the study period, there was a 74% decrease in SPF protection. “The reason for this reduction is probably the volunteer’s back rubbing against their t-shirt and the chair,” said Which?. In real life, in addition the sun cream rubbing off on the sun-lounger, towels, or tee-shirts, conditions would be even more likely to affect sun cream duration, due to factors such as heat, sweating or water.

The organisation said that duration claims are not allowed in Australia, “where anything that leads consumers to believe sun creams don’t need to be regularly reapplied is forbidden.” Based on its UK analysis, Which? added: “We’re not confident that one application of any sun cream will keep you adequately protected in the sun. Our concern is they may offer a false sense of security, exposing [users] to a greater risk of sunburn.”

Commenting on the findings, Professor Jayne Lawrence, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Chief Scientist, said: “Our own survey into sunscreen use revealed a worrying lack of understanding about using it. Under half of those surveyed (44%) always or often used sunscreen when out in the sun and a third (31%) of those asked either did not know how much lotion to apply, or thought they should apply less than needed, to ensure protection.

“About three tablespoons (30 ml) of sunscreen is required to cover the average body of an adult to give the level of protection stated as the SPF on the bottle and this should be repeated every two hours. It’s also advisable to cover up with a t-shirt, sunglasses and hat during the hottest part of the day (11am-3pm) and find the shade where you can.”

Links:

Which? announcement

RPS comment

RP survey findings (June 2015)

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