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July 15, 2016

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The hidden dangers of one-application sun creams

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Once-a-day sun creams may be time-saving, but are they safe? Paul Jakeway, Marketing Director at Deb UK explains. 

On paper, once-a-day sun creams sound convincing and convenient, but how well do they protect your skin and your worker’s skin? According to recent research from consumer watchdog Which? this simpler option is somewhat flawed. For workers who are likely to come into contact with water and sweat, towel-dry themselves or encounter some sort of physical abrasion after applying the cream, this type of application can be dangerous, as it can cause the cream to wear off. This is lulling sun cream users into a false sense of security, and consequently posing a serious risk of skin damage or even skin cancer.

Skin cancer is already a pertinent issue for the UK. Recent figures have demonstrated that malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer caused by exposure to the sun, is the fifth most common cancer in the UK. Around forty new cases are diagnosed each day and more than 2,000 people die each year from it. [1]

Skin cancer disproportionately affects younger people; with more than a third of all cases of malignant melanoma occurring in people ages 55 and under. [2] It is this younger population, those which favour a fast-paced, convenient lifestyle, who are more inclined to choose the potentially dangerous one-application sun creams.

The HSE recommends that outdoor workers:

  • Keep their tops on.
  • Wear a hat with a brim or a flap that covers the ears and the back of the neck.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, during breaks and especially at lunch time.
  • Use a high factor sunscreen of at least SPF15 on any exposed skin.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Check skin regularly for any unusual moles or spots. See a doctor promptly if they find anything that is changing in shape, size or colour, itching or bleeding.

Understanding sun cream application

Which?’s research has revealed that for one-application sun cream users, after six to eight hours in the sun, the sun cream protection can drop by an astonishing 74%; equivalent of dropping the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) from a factor 30 to a factor 8.

However, those behind the manufacturing of the one-application sun creams aren’t necessarily deceiving buyers. If you apply the one-application sun cream thoroughly, covering every inch of your body, and don’t come into contact with anything which could cause the cream to wear off, then you will remain adequately protected. However, it has been revealed that as a nation, we unwittingly only apply half of the recommended amount of sun cream. This is why advocating the application of only one layer of sun cream each day could be damaging.

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It is therefore recommended that sun cream should be liberally applied every two to three hours to guarantee maximum protection. In terms of the guideline amount of sun cream to apply, the British Association of Dermatologists recommend that when using lotions, the bare minimum should be six, full teaspoons (approximately 36 grams) which should cover the body of the average adult.[3]

However, even when the recommended sun cream amount is applied, it is of course advised that those in the sun seek shade or wear protective clothing, especially between the hours of 11am and 3pm.

Knowledge is power

Many of those exposed to the sun still remain uneducated on the risk it poses. For example, many still believe that they are only at risk when the sun is shining, when in fact sun cream must be liberally and frequently applied, depending on the UV level.

For those about to purchase sun cream, you must ensure that it doesn’t only have a high enough SPF, but that it also offers high UVA and UVB protection, otherwise known as a ‘broad spectrum’ sun cream. A sun cream with an SPF of 30 and a UVA 5 star “ultra” rated protection is generally considered a good standard of sun protection in addition to shade and clothing.

Ultimately, even if a sun cream claims that it can provide protection for six to eight hours, surely it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting one of the largest and most delicate organs in the human body – the skin. Regular reapplication, skin monitoring and effective education on the dangers of the sun and when you must protect yourself is key.

[1] The Telegraph

[2] Skcin

[3] British Association of Dermatologists

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