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Public confused by sunscreen labels

By Tim Sandle     Jun 28, 2015 in Health
London - The public are confused by the labeling of sunscreen products, according to a new reports. One reason is that the main label relates to protection from UVB light only.
The survey and associated commentary has come from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (U.K.). The august body has said that current labeling of sunscreen products is misleading and it confuses consumers. In many parts of the world, sunscreen products indicate their protection from the sun with a 'Sun Protection Factor' (SPF) rating. This rating, however, only refers to protection from one form of ultraviolet light — UVB. Often, in smaller print, or indicated by a different symbol, is the protection factor for UVA light. In the U.K. this is indicated by a series of asterisks (* symbols.)
With the SPF rating, this is best explained by using time. It takes around 20 minutes for unprotected skin to turn red; so, using an SPF 15 sunscreen this delays reddening by 15 times longer (20 multiplied by 15 is about five hours.) Most healthcare professionals recommend sunscreens with a protection factor of 30 (or higher.)
Ultraviolet light is a form of electromagnetic radiation present in sunlight. Suntan, freckling and sunburn are the effects of over-exposure, along with higher risk of skin cancer. For this reason, health experts recommend the use of sunscreen in hot weather. The better the sunscreen, then the greater the protection afforded.
There are nine different types of ultraviolet light, defined by their wavelength. Of risk to skin, in sunlight, are UVA and UVB. Ultraviolet A rays cause skin-ageing and wrinkles; and both UVB and UVA rays can cause skin cancer.
Because sunscreens are rated differently for UVA and UVB, with UVB having greater prominence, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society has said this system is confusing and that a single rating is needed. Talking with the BBC, Professor Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist with the society, stated: "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."
In related news, two leading brands of sunscreen lotions have been criticized for not offering the same level of sun protection as their labels claim. This was according to a survey by the consumer group Which?
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