Sun creams claiming to provide ‘total protection’ or ‘sunblock’ are making promises they cannot deliver, the European Commission has warned.
Both expressions, and any similar claims suggesting complete safety in the sun, are being dropped from sunscreen labelling as part of a new campaign reinforcing the risks of too much exposure to holiday heat this year.
New standards agreed by Brussels in cooperation with the sunscreen industry also include information about levels of protection from UVA as well as UVB radiation.
Current sun protection factor ratings generally refer to UVB exposure, which causes sunburn, but not UVA rays, which cause premature skin ageing and can affect the human immune system, said the Commission.
And where sun creams refer to UVA radiation, complex labelling is difficult to understand.
In future there will be a standard UVA logo, and descriptions of protection will be labelled for both UVA and UVB rays, as ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’, alongside the usual sun protection factor number.
‘Consumers need clear, accurate information on sunscreen products,’ said EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva.
‘We need to reinforce the essential message that sunscreen is only one of a number of measures that are necessary for effective protection against the sun.’
EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou added: ‘When properly applied, sunscreens can help to protect against skin cancer, but alone they are not enough. Other sensible precautions include avoiding long periods of exposure, staying in the shade at peak hours, and protecting yourself with a hat and sunglasses.’
An information campaign being launched by the Commission warns: ‘There is no sunblock or total protection.’
And it says sun worshippers should be aware that a sun protection factor over 50 offers virtually no extra protection against sunburn and UVB radiation: ‘If a product is correctly applied, a sun protection factor of 15-25 suffices to protect a person with normal skin from sunburn.’
The new voluntary labelling code is being phased in, with about 20 per cent of sun screen bottles carrying the new markings – and dropping terms such as ‘sunblocker’ and ‘100% protection’ – from this summer.
Full standardisation of sun cream labelling should be complete by summer 2008.
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