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Sunscreen Labels, Experts Say People Don’t Understand Them


Clearer labeling is needed on sunscreens, experts say, amid concerns that people are confused about their sun protection needs and products.

Most consumers don’t understand the protection ratings listing on the different products, or the amount or protection the sunscreen lotions offer. Many users are confused by the different labels and lack any understanding of the sun protection ratings, reports The Guardian.

As an example, many people do not know that the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating only pertains to specific harmful rays from the sun, but not from others.

In a survey, it was shown that, “consumers do not realize the SPF rating applies only to the amount of protection offered against UVB rays, not UVA rays,” said Professor Jayne Lawrence, chief scientist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

This survey indicates that there is a huge amount of confusion around sunscreen labelling that is a barrier to effective sun protection. 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.

UVB rays, which cause sunburn, are protected against with the SPF number found on a bottle of sunscreen. UVA rays are the leading cause of skin-aging and wrinkles, and is denoted by a star rating on the label. Both forms of rays are damaging to the skin and can cause skin cancer.

According to BBC News, you should be looking for both ratings when selecting a sunscreen for purchase. SPF is indicated by a number such as SPF 15 or SPF 35, noting its effectiveness in protection against UVB rays. UVA protection is ranked from zero to five stars, the higher the star the better the sunscreen is at absorbing the damaging UVA rays.

Professor Lawrence feels that in order for consumers to choose an effective sunscreen, the rating system should be changed. Rather than having to examine a bottle for the two different ratings, it’s time “for sunscreen manufactures to provide one easy-to-understand rating,” which would offer low, medium, high and very high protection.

With melanoma cancer rates on the rise, it is more important than ever that people not only use sunscreen, but that they understand the labels and buy the best protection possible.

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