Mosquito repellent, after-sun and anti-jet-lag remedies; most of us know the blind panic of the pre-holiday shopping trip. We dash around our local pharmacy, baskets overflowing with just-in-case health products. But ask yourself: how much of this do I really need? Here, we tell you how to weed out the pointless products taking up valuable space in your suitcase.
What’s the claim? ‘The natural choice for nausea relief’
These elasticated wristbands are said to alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness by pressing on the Nei-Kuan pressure point, with no nasty side effects. Unfortunately, the NHS remains unconvinced. ‘There’s little scientific evidence to show that travel-sickness bands are effective,’ it says.
Is it worth the money? They don’t work for everyone. Looking for something with a little more scientific clout? Travel-sickness medication such as Kwells contain hyoscine, which blocks some of the nerve signals sent from the sensory system, to prevent nausea. However, it can cause drowsiness. Talk to a pharmacist to find the right option for you.
What’s the claim? ‘[It] expels a concentrated formula to form a protective halo around you’
It sounds ideal: rather than douse ourselves in pungent DEET, we can ward off mozzies with an environmentally friendly bracelet. But studies have shown that while wrist bands will reduce the number of bites to the hands and wrists, they are not a substitute for lotions or sprays – and they’re unlikely to spare other parts of the body.
Is it worth the money? For extra protection, go ahead. But you’ll still need to apply repellent regularly to all areas of exposed skin. A formula containing 20-50% DEET is recommended.
What’s the claim? ‘Specially formulated to cool and soothe sun-exposed skin’
While nobody plans to get sunburnt on holiday, it’s easy to be caught out. But is after-sun lotion really a miracle cure for frazzled skin? While many of these lotions contain paraffinum liquidum – which helps form a second skin, allowing your own to repair underneath – this same ingredient is commonly found in a bog-standard moisturiser.
Is it worth the money? No. A moisturiser for sensitive skin, such as Aveeno (£3.99 for 200ml), will do the job. Aveeno contains colloidal oatmeal, skin-protecting allantoin and barrier repairing ceramides to speed up your skin’s recovery.
What’s the claim? ‘Allows you to adjust to the local time zone quicker’
Circadin contains melatonin, a hormone which is produced in the brain and helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. The drug isn’t currently licensed in the UK, but it can be prescribed online. However, because it’s unregulated in this country, people won’t necessarily use it correctly. Its herbal equivalents also vary greatly in their contents, effectiveness and potency.
Is it worth the money? You’ll be spending money on something unlicensed when there’s a cheaper solution. Harvard Medical School found that fasting for at least 16 hours before you fly can override the body clock.
What’s the claim? ‘Provides up to eight hours of sun protection’
It’s appealing to think we can slap on the sunscreen in the morning and be protected all day long, but can long-lasting formulas really go the distance? and saw an average 74% decrease in SPF protection over the course of the day.
Is it worth the money? No. You’d be better off regularly reapplying Lidl’s good-value own-brand Cien Sun Lotion Classic SPF 30 (£3.49 for 230ml), a Which? Best Buy.
Find the active ingredient on the packaging and look for other products that do the same thing for a lower price. If you’re unsure, ask a pharmacist for advice.
Look for the marketing authorisation (‘product licence’ or ‘PL’) number. If this is the same on two products, they are the same medicine.
Be wary of unspecific, meaningless claims such as ‘relieves’ or ‘soothes’.
Don’t be fooled by terms such as ‘clinically proven’ or ‘scientifically proven’ – these are meaningless, as all products have to be approved based on clinical and scientific research studies.
Question statements preceded by ‘can’, ‘may’ or ‘helps’. These allow manufacturers to avoid implying that the product will work for everyone all of the time.