Consumers are confused about sunscreen labelling

There is a worrying level of confusion among consumers regarding sunscreen labelling, according to new research by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

The survey found a general lack of understanding of how to choose a sun protection product among its 2,000- plus respondents. Consumers were also unsure about the degree of sun protection provided by different products, mainly because on-pack indicators vary between manufacturers and products. In fact, some 92% were unaware that the SPF rating only measures UVB (burning) and not UVA (ageing) rays. 56% of people asked thought that SPF was an indication of levels of protection from both UVB and UVA, and 25% said they simply did not know what the rating stood for.

The level of protection from UVA rays offered is typically indicated by a separate star rating located on the back label of the product, though not all brands use this system, adding to the confusion highlighted by the survey. Only 31% of respondents said they always checked the UVA star rating when buying sunscreen. In many cases this results in consumers opting for a high SPF product, which gives high UVB protection but low UVA.

Chief scientist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Professor Jayne Lawrence told Professional Beauty, “We all believe that the higher the SPF, the better it is for us. A lot of people don’t even look at or consider the UVA protection. We want a system in place so that when a person goes into a shop, they pick up a product and they’ve immediately got a good idea what they’re getting. Ideally it should give you protection against both UVA and UVB.”

This story first appeared in the August issue of Professional Beauty. To make sure you're always the first to read the news, subscribe online for just £4.99 a year for 12 digital issues or £37 for an annual 12-issue subscription.