herald

Monday 20 August 2018

Think you're covered? Not unless your suncream has the XXX factor

People going out in the sun should apply a minimum factor 30 suncream rather than follow official guidance that invariably leaves users poorly protected, experts advise.

Recommendations to use a minimum factor 15 suncream require an urgent rethink because they do not reflect how lotions are actually used and are "not in the interests of public health", it is claimed.

A paper and editorial published today by experts, in which a team of doctors reviews medical treatment, concludes that factor 15 suncream offers all-day protection only if it is applied thickly.

"In reality, people using sunscreens typically apply much less than this and get no more than half, at best, of the protection indicated by the labelled sun protection factor," the doctors write.

Recommendations by the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) for people to use a minimum factor 15 sun cream are "not in the interests of public health", says the report.

In January, researchers published guidance saying people should wear broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a minimum factor 15 sun protection.



RETHINK

But an editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin urges a rethink, saying the recommendation is far too low and not based on how people actually use sun creams.

Factor 15 offers all-day protection only if it is applied at a thickness of 2mg/cm2, the experts said.

This thickness is used by manufacturers as the standard test for SPF. However, the experts said people using sun creams usually apply much less than this -- and also pointed out that sunscreen runs off the skin.

They said: "Using it 'adequately' is also costly, since whole-body coverage for a single application for an adult at 2mg/cm2 requires around 35ml of sunscreen.

"Applying this much at least every two hours, as Nice also recommends, would require a standard 200ml bottle of sunscreen every two to three days.

"In our view, the Nice advice on sunscreen use is not in the interests of public health.

"Products labelled with an SPF of 30 (together with a four or five-star rating to indicate broad-spectrum ultraviolet screening effect) will more reliably deliver adequate sun protection to most people who use sunscreens and would be sufficient to prevent sunburn under most circumstances."

The experts argued that a "more logical solution" would be for manufacturers to change how they test sunscreens "so that it accurately reflects the way people actually use sunscreens in real life.

"Then the SPF would really tell people what sun protection to expect."

hnews@herald.ie

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