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Sunscreen ingredients and labelling: A survey of products available in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shyamal Wahie, Dr James LloydORCiD, Professor Peter Farr


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Background. In Europe, where sunscreens are classified as cosmetics, products may contain one or several of 27 permitted 'ultraviolet filters'. We were unable to find published data on the frequency of usage of individual ultraviolet (UV)-absorbing chemicals in currently available sunscreens. Aim. To record the active ingredients and labelling characteristics of sunscreens available in the UK. Methods. In 2005, two dermatologists visited seven retail outlets, which stocked a large range of sunscreens. Manufacturers were also contacted. For each product, the names of UV-protective ingredients and the labelling information, including sun protection factor (SPF), UVA protection and age group for which the product was marketed were recorded. Results. Data on 308 skin sunscreen products and 21 lip sunscreens were recorded. For skin products, the SPF ranged from 2 to 60. In total, 23 different UV-absorbing ingredients were found, 4 of which were found in > 25% of products. The child and baby skin sunscreens (n = 52) had a significantly higher median SPF of 40, compared with 15 for the remaining 256 adult products (P < 0.001). The number of UV-absorbing chemicals and the frequency of those commonly used did not differ substantially between child and adult products. Of skin sunscreens marketed for babies, 60% contained 2-6 UV-absorbing chemicals. Nearly half of the skin sunscreens contained at least one of nine UV-absorbing chemicals not available in patch testing formulations from commercial suppliers. Conclusions. The results of this survey indicate current sunscreen content and labelling, and are a benchmark from which new developments can be tracked. More standard sunscreen labelling, particularly separate listing of active ingredients, would be helpful. It was surprising to find UV-absorbing chemicals in products sold for use on babies. © 2007 The Author(s).

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wahie S, Lloyd JJ, Farr PM

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical and Experimental Dermatology

Year: 2007

Volume: 32

Issue: 4

Pages: 359-364

ISSN (print): 0307-6938

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2230

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2230.2007.02404.x

PubMed id: 17376206


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