Two-thirds of consumers don’t check labels on sunscreen

Nearly two-thirds of Irish people do not always check sunscreen labels for sun protection, it has emerged.

When deciding on a sunscreen, four out of ten (38%) consider the sun-protection factor to be the most important; for a fifth (20%) of people, skin-damaging ultraviolet A (UVA) is the most important think to look out for.

The findings are from a national survey by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) on consumer understanding of sunscreens.

While the level of familiarity with sunscreen terminology is relatively high, there was a worrying lack of knowledge among some adults.

Almost one in three (30%) do not understand the term UVA, while more than a quarter (27%) do not know the term SPF (sun-protection factor). Only 25% know the term ‘broad spectrum’, which indicates that the product protects against both ultraviolet A and B rays.

HPRA cosmetics manager Darren Scully says people need to be aware of the skin-protection benefits of applying sunscreen.

“We would urge people to check the labelling of sunscreens as both UVA and UVB rays can cause extensive skin damage,” he said.

It is particularly important that parents choose a product with UVA and a high SPF for children, and ensure it is frequently applied, he said.

“With skin cancer one of the five most common cancers in Ireland, sunscreen is one of the best defences against sun exposure,” said Mr Scully.

The authority said adults and children should wear suitable clothes to protect against the sun, including hats.

When using sunscreen, it advises to apply it 20 minutes before going out into the sun and frequently reapply, especially after perspiring, swimming, or towelling.

People should also stay out of the sun when it is at its peak during the day, said the HPRA.

Mr Scully said the average adult should use about six teaspoons of sunscreen — the equivalent of six good squirts — for complete body coverage.

The survey also found that 41% of people do not understand the open jar symbol — the safe usage period after opening, for cosmetics as well as sunscreens. One third (34%) admitted they would use sunscreen beyond the safe usage period.

The price is the most important factor for 23% of people. Just one in 10 (12%) always check for an EU address — a requirement for cosmetic products in Europe.


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