Healthy living * Travel health

Poor suncream use puts lives at risk

poor suncream habits can put health in danger New survey shows UK's bad habits

Nine out of 10 people in the UK could be putting their lives at risk because they don’t know how to use suncream properly according to a new survey.

In the words of the survey we are a nation of "slapdash slatherers" who either don't put on enough suncream or don’t reapply it often enough – leaving us vulnerable to sunburn which can ultimately lead to skin cancer.

The survey showed that:

  • Only 13 per cent know that you should apply two tablespoons of suncream to cover their entire body, whilst wearing a swimsuit or trunks
  • 20 per cent of people don’t use suncream at all
  • When abroad nearly half of us don’t reapply suncream after two hours
  • And when in the UK this rises to nearly 80 per cent

In fact when out in the sun in the UK 42 per cent of people either do not re-apply it after two hours or don’t use suncream at all – despite the fact that sunlight here in the UK can be just as damaging as in hotter countries.

Almost half of those surveyed (46 per cent) are confused by what SPF actually means and think that SPF30 offers double the protection of SPF15 - a worrying misconception. A SPF15 sunscreen filters out 93 per cent of UVB radiation (the type that’s mostly responsible for sunburn), while a SPF30 sunscreen filters out 96 per cent - offering just three per cent more protection.

The survey was commissioned by Superdrug and Cancer Research UK. Caroline Cerny, Cancer Research UK’s SunSmart manager, said: “It’s really concerning that people don’t know how to use sunscreen properly. Sunscreen only works if you put enough on. You can’t make up for a thin layer by increasing the factor you use.

“Rates of the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma, are on the rise in the UK, so we really want people to take note of what they can do to protect themselves. Applying sunscreen regularly and generously is a start, but don’t forget to take other steps to reduce your risk as well, such as covering up with clothes, sunglasses, and spending time in the shade when the sun is at its hottest. Whatever you do, don’t let sunburn catch you out.”

Superdrug are supporting Cancer UK’s SunSmart campaign by providing information and advice to its customers about sun safety, including free skin cancer risk assessments in all 200+ pharmacy stores. These stores will also be offering free sunscreen consultations showing how to apply sunscreen correctly.

More information

This article was published on Thu 29 April 2010

Image © Christian Wheatley -

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