BE CAREFUL when you buy a tube of sunscreen. Not all live up to their SPF promise and, from April 1, all Cansa seal-bearing sunscreens will have to meet a new UVA protection standard and exhibit a new logo to prove it.
According to the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa), there is no such thing as a healthy tan.
Investigative weekly Noseweek last year reported how Cansa had asked Future Cosmetics to test a 10% sample of South African products, including the three brand leaders. Several in the sample of 35 products out of 357 individual sunscreen products fell short of the optimal internationally recommended (gold standard) protection. Since then the defaulters – whose names were never released – have committed to upgrading their ranges to meet the new requirements.
"The upgraded sunscreen will be identifiable by the new Cansa SunSmart Choice Seal [see picture]," a Cansa spokesperson said.
From the end of this month, all sunscreen products will have to comply with the European Colipa standards if they want to carry the Cansa SunSmart Choice Seal. Colipa, now called Cosmetics Europe, is the equivalent of South Africa's Cosmetic, Toiletries and Fragrance Association, and sets health and safety standards for products that include sun cream.
With South Africa the second highest incidence of skin cancer in the world after Australia for white skin, Cansa has for many years recommended choosing a sunscreen with a UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) protection and SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 20 to 50 – and preferably 30 to 50 for fair to very fair skin. However, it also says that darker skin, including black skin, is at risk.
South Africa is also second only to Australia with the fastest growing rate of skin cancer in the world, with more than 20000 new cases annually and 700 deaths a year arising from skin cancer.
Cansa advises that people who play sport outdoors, work in the sun or spend a lot of time driving, are considered a high-risk. Research shows at least 80% of sun-induced skin damage occurs before the age of 18 although it only shows up later in life. It therefore strongly recommends special care of children in the sun – whether they are in the pool, on the beach, playing or at school, regardless of their skin colour.
Last month it also called on the South African government to ban the use of sunbeds for teenagers.
The World Health Organisation (Who) reports that between two and three million non-melanoma skin cancers and approximately 132000 malignant melanomas occur globally every year.
Together with skin cancer research highlighting the need for more effective UVA protection, the new standards will help to give better protection to South African skins of all shades.
ưA full list of the Colipa compliant sunscreens is available on Cansa's website: www.cansa.org
Alternatively, look for the new SunSmart logo.