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Brussels, 30 June 2009

Consumers: Be sun-smart this summer

At the start of the holiday season, the European Commission alerts consumers to the importance of adequate protection from the sun this summer and reminds them to look out for the clearer labelling regime on sunscreen bottles. The new labels - including a new UV-A logo or seal on bottles and a ban on misleading terms such as "sun blocker" or "total protection" - are a response to a Commission recommendation on sunscreen products adopted in September 2006. The Commission is also seeking to remind consumers that there are several reasons why sunscreen products should be only one out of a number of measures which are necessary to protect from the UV radiation of the sun.

Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said: “Our message to cons umers this summer is very clear: be fully aware that sunscreen is only one of a number of measures that are necessary for effective protection against the sun, and look out for the new labels and make an informed decision about the sunscreen products you use for yourself and your family this summer."

Health Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said "Everyone, young and old needs to be well informed about the range of measures that help to protect from UV radiation when enjoying the sun. This is why the European Commission monitors ultraviolet exposure in the European Union and its effects on the incidence of skin cancers, as well as the development of relevant prevention and risk reduction strategies within the framework of the Health Programme."

Improved labelling

The requirements for the information on the labelling of sunscreen products were set out in a Commission recommendation in September 2006 on the efficacy and claims of sunscreen products. Under the recommendation:

  • Claims such as “sun block” or “100% protection ” should not be used any more. Despite frequent claims like “sun blocker” and “total protection”, no sunscreen products can provide for a full protection against UV radiation.

  • Standardised verbal descriptors (“low” – “medium” – “high” and “very high” protection) should be used alongside the traditional sun protection factors (SPF) to provide better guidance for the choice of the appropriate sunscreen product.

  • Better labelling of UV-A protection: while UV-B radiation is the cause of “sun-burn”, UV-A radiation causes premature skin ageing and interferences with the human immune system. Both types of radiation are important contributors to the skin-cancer risk. The so-called ‘sun protection factor' (SPF) only refers to equal levels of sunburn (UV-B radiation) and not to similar effects from UV-A radiation. Sunscreen products with only UV-B-protection may provide a false sense of safety because they let hazardous UV-A radiation reach the skin.

  • Industry is introducing a standardised UV-A-seal on its product labels, indicating a quantified minimum UV-A-protection which increases in parallel with an increasing SPF and is based on a standardised testing method.

Facts about the implementation of the Commission recommendation

Colipa (The European Trade Association representing the interests of the cosmetic, toiletry and perfumery industry) for the second time has carried out a survey across its members to investigate the situation on the 2009 EU market with regard to the compliance level of sunscreen products with the EU recommendation.

  • As regards the required level of UVA protection in sunscreen products (minimum 1:3 ratio of UVA protection to UVB protection) 96% of products are compliant with the EU Recommendation.

  • As regards the use of the new UVA logo, 95% of the sunscreen products use the standardized Colipa UVA logo - enabling consumers to easily recognize products that provide adequate UVA protection.

  • Overall, the survey by Colipa indicates that the UVA protection features in the EC 2006 Recommendation have truly penetrated the EU market. Practically every sunscreen product offered to consumers is in line with the EC's expectations.

What should consumers know this summer?

Consumers should look out for products carrying the improved labelling regime . At the same time, consumers are advised to use sunscreen products only as one out of many measures to protect against the sun. Other measures include:

  • Avoid excessive sun exposure at peak hours , which is usually between 11am and 3pm;

  • When it is not possible to stay out of the sun, keep yourself well covered ; hats and sun glasses can give you additional protection;

  • Use sunscreens products protecting against both UVB and UVA radiation ;

  • Avoid direct sun exposure of babies and young children ;

  • Apply sunscreen products in sufficient quantity . The correct application of the product is just as important as the choice of the product itself. To reach the protection indicated on the “sun protection factor”, a quantity of 2mg/cm² needs to be applied. This is about 36 grams (6 full tea spoons) of sun cream for one adult body . Presently consumers use usually only about ½ of this quantity. This quantity has to be re-applied after swimming or towelling to maintain protection.

See pictograms (downloadable from link hereunder) which are used to reinforce these and other key facts and figures on sun exposure in accompanying memo.

The new labelling requirements:

Labelled category

Labelled sun protection factor

Recommended minimum UVA protection factor

“Low protection”

“6 ”


“Medium protection”




“High protection”



“Very high protection”



P rojects co-funded by the European Commission on skin cancer: .

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