Monday 19 March 2018

Forget about Factor 15, you need at least factor 30

Rosemary O'Grady

With forecasters predicting a scorcher for the bank holiday weekend, Irish holidaymakers are putting themselves at risk of sunburn and skin cancer because official guidelines on sun cream is far too low, it has been warned.

Experts have described recommendations to use factor 15 sun cream as a 'blunder' and 'not in the best interests of public health'.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) published guidance in January saying people should wear a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreens with a minimum factor 15 sun protection (SPF).

But according to Dr Iheacacho, editor of the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin this SPF is too low and is not based on how people actually use sun cream.

Dr Iheacacho says Factor 15 only offers all-day protection if it is applied extremely thickly as per standards used in tests by manufacturers.

Most people only put on about half the specified amount of sun cream, since if they applied the dose recommended by Nice they would get through a bottle “every two to three days”.

“In reality, people using sunscreens typically apply much less than this and get no more than half, at best, of the protection indicated by the labelled SPF,” said Dr Iheanacho.

As a result, researchers say that sunbathers should wear factor 30 to ensure they receive enough protection.

With the rates of malignant melanoma having tripled among those aged 15 to 34 since the late 1970's according to Cancer Research UK, it is vital that the fair skinned Irish pay close attention to these findings.

To stay safe in the sun it is recommended that you take the following precautions;

Apply sunscreen (factor 30) to all areas that are not protected by clothing, including face, ears, and backs of hands

Pay particular attention to vulnerable areas, such as the nose, shoulders, tops of the feet, and back of the neck

Spread sunscreen evenly rather than rub it in

Re-apply after swimming or heavy sweating

Don't use sunscreen to prolong time spent in the sun

If you are fair skinned, go without sunscreen for 15 minutes two to three times a week only to ensure adequate supplies of vitamin D can be manufactured by the skin; those with darker skins need longer

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