The majority of suncreams on sale in Europe do not provide complete protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays, new research has revealed.
Analysts at Mintel carried out an investigation of new products coming onto the market and found that fewer than half of the new sunscreen products launched in Europe supplied dual protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
While the majority provide protection against UVB – which causes the skin to burn – many do not protect against UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin and can cause premature ageing and DNA damage which, if not repaired, can lead to skin cancer.
Alexandra Richmond, senior beauty analyst at Mintel, said: "For a sunscreen to be as effective as possible, it should really protect against both UVB and UVA rays.
"What many people may not realise is that if they just have UVB protection, they are less likely to burn but they have no protection against the harmful and ageing effects of UVA rays."
The British Association of Dermatologists has urged consumers to take care when picking a sunscreen.
Spokeswoman Nina Goad noted that many people look for a particular SPF, believing that this will give them full protection against UV-related damage.
"In fact, the SPF only shows protection against UVB, which is the type of UV that causes sunburn and skin cancer," she revealed.
"It’s UVA that causes sun-induced skin ageing and also contributes towards skin cancer, but the SPF does not show protection against UVA. You need to look for specific UVA filters, indicated in the UK by stars or a circular UVA symbol," Ms Goad advised.
"Don’t forget that no sunscreen offers total protection, so use shade and clothing as your first line of defence."
Sarah Woolnough, policy manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "We’ve known for some time that overexposure to both UVA and UVB rays can increase the risk of skin cancer. European guidelines have been introduced to help ensure that sunscreens provide the best protection and that sunscreen labels are clear.
"When buying sunscreen, Cancer Research UK recommends using at least factor 15 and choosing those labelled ‘broad spectrum’, which protect against UVA and UVB rays."
(Source: Cancer Research UK: August 2008)