17 June 2006

Wear Sunscreen. If The EU Could Fix One Label, Sunscreen Would Be It.

The EU are finally taking action to standardise the labelling on sun creams (the title is to make the reference to Everybody's Free To Wear Sunscreen). This pleases me no end as at the moment only the UVB level is marked on the front of the box. That is the SPF rating that prevents you from burning (UVB = Burning). The rating for UVA is a five star scale that is very difficult to find, sometimes impossible. Relatively recently it has been decreed that UVA is also bad for you and can cause cancer; previously it was only believed to age skin. This came as quite a shock to me as in Egypt this year we used an excellent once-a-day sun cream, Reitman P20, that gave us a lovely tan. The reason it could do this with the temperature in the low 20s and it being January is because it didn't block any UVA rays at all and that was its selling point! I have third hand evidence that says Boots have stopped selling it because it offers no UVA protection which would make sense. In Kos we used Piz Buin's new once-a-day cream with a UVB rating of SPF 30 and 3 stars for UVA and never got burned at all (although we did practise safe sun). You would think fours stars would be better than three but it seems that the UVA ratings are not that straight forward: "this is only a rough guide because it is also affected by the SPF. A cream with SPF 25 and 3 stars may give more UVA protection overall than a cream with SPF 10 and 4 stars". Also the UVB system isn't as simple as 'factor 15 increases the time you can spend in the sun by a factor of 15', i.e. 15 minutes times 15 = 3 hours 45 minutes. Using SPF 15 will let through 7% of harmful UVB rays, SPF 30 lets only 4% through and SPF 60 only 2% (the highest protection you can get). The key thing about the Piz Buin once-a-day product is that is won't rub off or get washed away (up to 80 minutes in water). That way SPF 30 should last seven hours but considering the need to take shade during 12pm until 2pm, you'd be hard pushed to be out in the sun that long. One last thing, you *do* need sun cream in Scotland - the Scottish Parliament haven't managed to strike a deal with Mother Nature not to cause skin cancer in Scotland!