According to the European Commission, there is no such thing as a safe suntan. The Commission plans to ban the words "sun block" and "100 per cent sun protection" from bottles of sun cream. According to the Commission, requiring sunscreen labels to conform to a common standard of information would end consumer confusion and help to reduce skin cancer, which incidentally, kills up to 1,800 Britons a year.
A recent study by the Environmental Working Group -EWG, studied 785 name-brand sunscreens and found 84 percent of them offered inadequate sun protection or contained harmful ingredients. The organization ranked the best and worst of the bunch by analyzing 400 peer-reviewed studies and other publicly available materials.
AdvertisementThe Commission also states that those creams that claim to offer total protection from the sun's harmful rays do no such thing, while brands that use the term "sun block" will have to find another description. Says Meglena Kuneva, the Consumer Affairs Commissioner: "Consumers must be made fully aware that no sunscreen product can provide 100 per cent protection against hazardous ultraviolet (UV) radiation." The best rating system - Sun Protection Factor (SPF) - describes only the protection against UV-B rays, not the more harmful UVA rays, which cause premature skin ageing and can interfere with the immune system.
Accordingly, by next summer, the Commission will require all sun creams to state whether they provide low, medium, high or very high protection, and give their SPF against UV-B rays. They will also have to display what protection they offer against UVA rays. Experts opine that exposure to both types of radiation can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Cancer Research UK says that the skin cancer rate has more than doubled in 20 years, with more than 75,000 new cases diagnosed last year.
Recent tests by ' Which?' -a consumer association, found that many sunscreens failed to offer the protection or even the SPF promised on the label. Some creams that claimed to have an SPF of 15, the recommended minimum, had in fact an SPF of 6. The Commission will also advise consumers how much sunscreen they would need to apply to get the protection indicated on the label. For an adult the recommended minimum amount is 2mg per cm² - the equivalent of six full teaspoons.
Says Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists: "Removing terms like '100 per cent protection' will help dispel the myth that using sunscreen means you can lie out in the sun for hours without having to worry about skin damage. No sunscreen offers total protection."