New campaign reignites call to scrap VAT on SPF products

Published 14th Mar 2024 by Kezia Parkins

As part of a 366 Days of SPF campaign, Yorkshire-based skin clinic and online retailer Face the Future has teamed up with Amy Callaghan, the Scottish MP behind the VAT Burn campaign that is petitioning for the UK Government to remove the VAT off all SPF products. 

Seeing as sunscreens are essential for public health and prevention, being recommended by the NHS, Callaghan believes they should be more affordable.

Listen to our podcast episode on skin surveillance and sun safety with industry veteran and melanoma survivor Anna McCartney... 

How many people in the UK use SPF?

Face the Future conducted a YouGov of over 2,000 participants highlighting that the UK population is not adhering to SPF guidelines, putting their skin health at risk. 

The survey found that:

-       22% apply SPF daily with only 8% reapplying it

-       55% only apply SPF when it is sunny

-       While 68% of the UK are worried about sunburn, only 61% are worried about skin cancer

-       64% say SPF is expensive

-       40% of those who wear SPF only wear it only holiday

-       55 spend less than £25 on skincare per month

-       46% are not familiar with the symptoms of skin cancer

-       56% who actively seek a tan do so for confidence

To encourage use of sunscreen and other retailers and the Government to follow suit, Face the Future is giving customers 20% off all such products until the end of May.

This comes after UK cancer charities recent push for the Government to scrap the VAT on these products amidst the cost of living crisis. 

“We believe that everyone in the UK has the right to sun safety and skin health. At Face the Future, we have SPF and suncare products at all price points, to ensure that we remain accessible to everyone,” said Face the Future director Julia Barcoe Thompson.

“However, to further support consumers in their choices, as part of the 366 Days of SPF campaign, we will be cutting VAT on all SPF products for from March 14 – May 31, 2024. We hope this additional 20% saving will encourage UK consumers to begin or continue their SPF journey.” 

Today [March 14], beauty journalist Nadine Baggott hosted a panel of key voices in sun safety including Callaghan, Barcoe Thompson, Heliocare dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth, fake tan founder (Mrs C's Tan) and melanoma awareness advocate Lisa Costello and British Skin Foundation dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips.

Being a two-time melanoma survivor, Callaghan is hugely passionate about getting rid of VAT on SPFs to aid in prevention, help protect NHS budgets and regularly pushes for this in parliament.  

“The NHS does an amazing job at raising awareness but the UK Government is not playing its part. Sunscreens being subject to VAT can lead people to risk sun exposure completely unprotected, or to buy cheaper products that don’t provide enough protection,” said Callaghan. 

“As of this weekend, I will be 10 years cancer free. In that time, we have seen treatment for melanoma progress massively but the prevention of it hasnt changed much at all,” she said.  

“In fact, it's become much more expensive to protect your skin from the sun. We need to turn that around and make sunscreen more affordable. We need to make sure more people protect their skin from the sun – this will ultimately save lives.”  

What the Government needs to do to encourage sunscreen use

As well as scrapping VAT, the experts on the panel stated that the Government needs to do more to encourage the public to protect their skin, highlighting Australia’s “Slip, Slap, Slop” campaign of the ’80s, which centred on a cartoon character with straightforward, memorable messaging and a catchy jingle. 

It was a very simple campaign that reminded people to slip on a shirt, slap on a hat and slop on some sunscreen but has been credited with reducing Australian skin cancer cases over the past 40 years. 

“The way we address sun safety is through better education to bust myths about tanning and skin cancer,” said Dr Phillips.

Even if you're not getting sunburned, you are still causing damage and this can accumulate over time and cause skin cancer. Most people believe skin cancer is something only older people deal with but I am diagnosing more and more people under the age of 30 – my youngest case was 23.”

GPs also need further education on skin cancer and sun safety said the experts. “I went to my GP 5 times before I got referred,” shared Callaghan. 

While highlighting her respect for GPs and the enormous pressure they are under, "there's maybe more education and awareness needed among medical professionals as well as wider society,” she says. 

Skcin is one of the cancer charities leading this campaign with Callahan. They are the charity behind the Masced (melanoma and skin cancer early detection ) training, which launched in 2019 at Professional Beauty London.

Kezia Parkins

Kezia Parkins

Published 14th Mar 2024

Kezia Parkins is the deputy editor of Professional Beauty. She has a background in medical journalism and is also as trained nail tech. As such, she is particularly passionate about all thing nails, as well as the science behind beauty products and treatments. Contact her at [email protected]

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