A burning issue

A Royal Pharmaceutical Society survey suggests that many people don’t know what protection ratings on sun-cream bottles mean.

According to the survey, one in five are unaware that the SPF rating, or factor number, does not mean protection against all sun damage. Only 8% of those surveyed understood that the SPF rating on the bottle means protection from UVB rays only.

The SPF rating shows protection against sunburn, but not from UVA rays, which cause long-lasting skin damage. Protection against UVA rays is shown by a star rating. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer.

Professor Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said: "Clearly many consumers do not realise the SPF rating applies only to the amount of protection offered against UVB rays, not UVA rays - both of which can damage the skin and cause skin cancer.

"People should not have to pick their way through complicated dual ratings information to understand how sunscreen works and the amount of protection it potentially provides."

Professor Lawrence goes on to suggest a new, single standard with a clear ratings system. We absolutely agree with that suggestion. As it stands, there is too much confusion surrounding a jumble of star-rating systems, number-value protection levels and the differences between UVA and UVB rays.

Once again confusion on product labels could potentially cause serious health issues. A single system, which tells consumers clearly, without any potential for misunderstanding, what the product protects them from is essential.

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