Sunscreens and sun protection
Sunscreen products are cosmetic products in accordance with the Cosmetics Regulation. They have an important "protective" function against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. There are two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. UVB radiation causes the skin to darken in colour, or in some instances, burn. UVA penetrates the skin further than UVB causing skin aging, resulting in wrinkles and pigmentation. Both forms of UV radiation have the potential to cause cancer.
The label of the sunscreen should be examined to ensure the product contains the appropriate amount of sun protection needed for your skin type.
It is also important to read all of the instructions and warnings on the sunscreen label and to apply the correct amount of sunscreen to ensure the level of protection is consistent with that claimed on the label.
The average sized adult should be using at the very least six full teaspoons of sun cream in order to give the indicated protection. Using quantities less than this will decrease the SPF/ UVA protection of the product. For children, the minimum amount of sun cream is based on factors including height and weight of the child. Sun cream should always be applied 20 minutes before exposure to the sun and reapplied at a minimum of every two hours.
There should be an open
jar symbol on the packaging of sunscreens that indicates the maximum time for which the product is safe to use once open. For example, if ‘24M’ is on the symbol then this indicates a usage period of 24 months for which it is safe to use after opening.
If a sunscreen has been opened the previous year and still within the timeline of the open jar symbol it should be checked to make sure it hasn’t separated before using.
Sunscreens should be stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight or as detailed on the label of the product.
Sunscreens should only be purchased from a reputable source where the product can be traced to a supplier. You should:
- check for a European address on the label of the sunscreen, the absence of which may indicate that the product has been imported from outside the EU and may not meet European requirements for safety assessment.
- choose a level of protection appropriate for your skin type that includes both UVA and UVB (SPF) protection.
The regulation of cosmetics in Ireland falls under the remit of the HPRA which investigate any non-compliance with EU Regulations. The market surveillance programme for cosmetic products, which includes sunscreens and other similar products, is coordinated by the HPRA and the HSE’s Environmental Health Service and Public Analysts’ Laboratories. *These recommendations are guidance only. Adults and children should apply at least the guidance amount of sunscreen. Amounts are calculated based on the surface area of an average adult's skin of 1.8m2 and the average weight and height of children at these ages (UK figures).