Sunscreen factor 15 'doesn't offer enough protection'

01/06/11

Sunbathers

Experts are warning that factor 15 sunscreen doesn't offer enough protection to the skin.

A leading group of doctors is calling for changes to guidelines on sun cream to urge people to use a higher factor.

At present the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which advises the NHS, recommends people should use a minimum of factor 15.

But medics claim this isn't based on how people actually use suncream.

They say sun protection factor (SPF) 15 only offers all-day protection if it's applied thickly and reapplied every two hours.

Stronger suncream

"Whole body coverage for a single application for an adult requires around 35ml of sunscreen," says Dr Iheanacho from the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin which is calling for the change.

Sunbathers
Image caption SPF 15 should be sufficient as long as it is applied 'adequately'

"Applying this much at least every two hours, as NICE also recommends, would require a standard 200ml bottle of sunscreen every two to three days."

It's believed that in reality, sunbathers use much less than this and get no more than half the protection indicated on the label.

"Products labelled with an SPF of 30 will more reliably deliver adequate sun protection to most people who use sunscreens," says Dr Iheanacho.

"This is what NICE should have recommended."

The NICE advice stems from a report into the use of suncream in preventing skin cancer in England.

The organisation defends its recommendation saying SPF 15 should be sufficient as long as people put enough on.

But Professor Mike Kelly from the group admits that "to take account of people not applying sufficient quantities of sunscreen, SPF 30 was also recommended in the expert paper".