Better protection from sun after European Commission actionslide

Consumers will benefit from a new clearer labelling regime on sunscreen bottles being phased in this summer. The new labels - including a new UV-A logo or seal on bottles and a ban on misleading terms such as "sunblocker" or "total protection" - are a response to a Commission recommendation on sunscreen products adopted in September 2006. As well as explaining the new sunscreen labelling system, the Commission, through an information campaign in partnership with Member States is seeking to raise awareness 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. The improved labelling regime is being phased in and will appear on 20% of sunscreen bottles this summer.

Read more :

Press Release / Memo :

New UVA seal

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New descriptors for protection power :

Labelled category
Labelled sun protection factor
Measured sun protection factor (measured in accordance with the principles recommended in point 10 (a))
Recommended minimum UVA protection factor (measured in accordance with the principles recommended in point 10 (b))
Recommended minimum critical wavelength(measured in accordance with the principles recommended in point 10 (c))
'Low protection'
6 - 9,9
1/3 of labelled sun protection factor
370 nm
10 - 14,9
'Medium protection'
15 - 19,9
20 - 24,9
25 - 29,9
'High protection'
30 - 49,9
50 - 59,9
'Very high protection'
50 +
60 <=

The minimum degree of protection provided by sunscreen products should be as follows:

(a) a UVB protection of sun protection factor 6 as obtained in application of the International Sun Protection Factor Test Method (2006) or an equivalent degree of protection obtained with any in vitro method:

(b) a UVA protection of UVA protection factor of 1/3 of the sun protection factor, as obtained in application of the persistent pigment darkening method as modified by the French health agency Agence française de sécurité sanitaire des produits de santé - Afssaps or an equivalent degree of protection obtained with any in vitro method;

(c) a critical wavelength of 370 nm, as obtained in application of the critical wavelength testing method.

Avoid excessive sun exposure at peak hours!

Over the summer months, one of the best ways to protect yourself from the sun's harmful UV rays is to find shade under trees, umbrellas, canopies or indoors.

UV rays are invisible and cannot be felt on the skin. They penetrate deeply into our cells, causing changes that lead to sunburn, skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer.

Why 11am-3pm?

The sun's UV rays are strongest in the hours around midday. This is why it's best to spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm.

Other things that affect the amount of UV rays are the:

  • time of year - the highest risk months in the EU are May to September. Near the equator, there are strong UV rays all year round.
  • altitude - UV rays are stronger the higher you go. So skiers and mountaineers beware!
  • cloud cover - you can still burn on a day when there is thin or scattered cloud, but heavy cloud does offer protection.
  • reflection - up to 85 per cent of UV rays can be reflected back from snow, sand, cement and water.
Providing shade

You can find or create shade in many different ways. For example:
  • trees and foliage
  • umbrellas and parasols
  • canopies and awnings
  • tents and shelters
  • wide-brimmed hats
(courtesy: Cancer Research UK)

Keep yourself well covered, including hat, T-shirt, and sun glasses!

When there's no shade around, the best way to protect your skin from the sun is with loose clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and good quality sunglasses.

What to look for

The more skin that is covered by your clothing, the better the protection. Look for materials with a close weave, as they will block out the most UV rays. Holding the material up to the light is a good way to see how much light and UV rays will get through. Natural fibres such as linen and cotton are cooler, especially if they are loose-fitting.

Be aware that when clothing gets wet it stretches and allows more UV rays through to your skin. A wet t-shirt may only offer half the protection of a dry one.

Don't forget your hat and sunglasses

Hats are great for protecting the face, eyes and head (especially if you happen to be thin on top!). A wide-brimmed hat can reduce the UV radiation reaching your face and eyes by over 50 per cent. Long term exposure of eyes to the sun increases your risk of skin cancer of the eyelids and around the eyes.

Choosing sunglasses

When choosing sunglasses look for one of the following:

  • the 'CE Mark'
  • a UV 400 label
  • a statement that the sunglasses offer 100% UV protection
Also, make sure that the glasses offer protection at the side of the eye.

(courtesy: Cancer Research UK)

Avoid direct sun exposure for babies and young children!

Young skin is delicate and very easily damaged by the sun. All children, no matter whether they tan easily or not, should be protected from the sun.

Children with fair or red hair, pale eyes or freckles are at most risk. Keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight, especially around midday.

  • Remember you can burn in Europe!
    The European sun is quite capable of burning your child! Take extra care at home as well as abroad.
  • Know the shadow rule
    If your shadow is longer than you are, then you are safe from the sun. When your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the sun can burn you
  • Use shade
    Keep babies in complete shade: under trees, umbrellas, canopies or indoors.
  • Cover them up
    Dress children in cotton clothing that is baggy, close-weave and cool. Oversized T-shirts are good for covering most of their skin.
  • Use dry clothing
    Remember that wet clothing stretches and can lose up to half of its UV protection – put children in dry clothing after playing in water.
  • Protect shoulders and necks
    Don't put children in vest tops or sundresses if they are spending a lot of time outdoors – shoulders and backs of necks get easily burned.
  • Wear sunglasses
    Buy good quality, wraparound sunglasses for children, as soon as they can wear them. Sunglasses don't have to be expensive brands, but toy sunglasses can do more harm than good.
  • Find hats they like
    Encourage children to wear hats with brims, especially if they are not wearing sunglasses. The wider the brim, the more skin will be shaded from the sun.
  • Use sunscreen wisely
    Apply factor 15+ sunscreen before children go outdoors. Then reapply often to be sure of good coverage. Don't forget their shoulders, nose, ears, cheeks and tops of feet.
  • Remember sunscreen washes off
    Always use waterproof factor 15+ sunscreen when children are swimming or playing outdoors with water. Reapply after towelling.
  • Don't forget school times
    Remember play times and lunch breaks on summer school days too. Give children a hat to wear and, if they can't apply sunscreen at school, cover their exposed skin with factor 15+ before they go.
(courtesy: Cancer Research UK)

Use sunscreen products that offer sufficient protection for your skin!
Use sunscreen products generously!
Re-apply sunscreen products frequently!

There will always be times when we are out in the sun without adequate shade or cover-up clothing. This is when sunscreen is useful for protecting our exposed skin from the sun's rays. Sunscreen alone will not protect us completely from sun damage.

We should never use sunscreen in order to spend longer in the sun. It should be used to increase our protection.

Why factor 15+ sunscreen?

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of a sunscreen is a measure of its ability to filter out dangerous UVB rays. The higher the factor the more protection you get from burning. But higher factor sunscreens tend to be more expensive.

The reason experts recommend factor 15, is that this represents the best balance between protection and price. You will get over 90 per cent protection from UVB rays with SPF 15. Above SPF 30 you don't get much additional protection from higher factors.

No sunscreen - no matter how high the factor - can offer 100 per cent protection.

What is broad spectrum?

Broad spectrum sunscreens block out UVA rays as well as UVB.

There is no international measurement of UVA protection. In the UK we use the 'star' system. This system compares the ratio of protection from UVA with the protection from UVB. It ranges from 0 stars to 5 stars.

Because it is a ratio, the number of stars a product has is not an absolute measure. For example, an SPF 25 with 3 stars may screen out more UVA overall than an SPF 10 with 4 stars.

Buying sunscreen

Choose one:

  • with an SPF of 15 or above - this will give you over 90% protection>
  • labelled 'broad spectrum' - to protect against UVA and UVB
  • that is water resistant - it is less likely to wash or be sweated off
  • with a valid 'use by' date - most sunscreens have a shelf life of 2-3 years
  • you can afford - you don't have to pay for expensive brands. All types are tested and the cheaper brands are just as effective if used properly.
Tips for using sunscreen properly
  • try to apply it 15-30 minutes before going out in the sun
  • apply to clean, dry skin and rub in only lightly
  • use generous amounts
  • re-apply once outside to ensure even coverage
  • then re-apply every 2 hours or more frequently if washed, rubbed or sweated off
  • put on before make-up, moisturiser, insect repellent, and so on
  • never use it to spend longer in the sun - this will put you at risk of sun damage that could lead to skin cancer.
Do not store sunscreens in very hot places as extreme heat can ruin their protective chemicals.

(courtesy: Cancer Research UK)

Other information :

Malignant melanoma (courtesy: Cancer Research UK)

List of participants
Partner organisations in the "sunscreen" campaign
Bundesministerium für Gesundheit AT
SPF Santé Publique BE
Ministry of Health CY
- CZ
Mitglied der Kosmetik-Komission beim BfR
CVUA Karlsruhe
Danish Env. Protection Agency DK
Agencia esp. de Med. y Prod. Sanitarios ES
Health Protection Inspectorate EE
Ministère de la Santé
Ministère de l’Industrie
National organisation of Medicines EL
National Institute for Food and Nutrition HU
Ministry of Health
Ministero Attivita Produttive
Istituto Superiore Sanita
Dpt of Health and Children IE
- LU
Public Health Laboratory Center LT
Dpt od Public Health
Ministry of Health
Malta Standards Authority MT
Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit NL
Infarmed PT
Sanitary Inspection PL
Medical Products Agency SE
Ministry of Trade and Industry SF
Ministry of Health SI
Public Health Office SK
Dpt of Trade and Industry UK
- CH
Norwegian Food Safety Authority NO
- IS
EFTA Surveillance Authority -
Eurogroup for Animal Welfare (only for item 3) -
European Commission, Enterprise DG EC
European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection DG EC

More information in your country:

Ministry of Health
Verstandig zonnen
Gouden Regels
Skru ned for solen
Solcreme og selvbruner/selvbrunerkabiner: Miljøstyrelsens kosmetikguide
Kreft foreningen
United Kingdom
Soleil – mode d’emploi
Guide de la protection solaire
Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority
Finnish Meteorological Institute
Finnish Cancer Organisations
French version: soleilmalin
Dutch version: veiligindezon
Slovak republic
Public Health Office of the Slovak Republic
El sol



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Last Update : 13-07-2007