Pharmacists may recall news headlines earlier this year about people experiencing significant sunburn despite application of high sun protection factor sunscreens.
Reports were accompanied by distressing images, including of children, with swollen faces, blisters and red raw skin. Some consumers had queried the contents or effectiveness of some sunscreens, particularly aerosol products.
TGA has recently published the outcomes of a compliance review of sunscreens. This was part of a regular monitoring and review process (not in response to concerns raised) that applies to listed medicines.
Key findings published by the TGA include:
- No compliance deficiencies of concern relating to quality, safety and efficacy in everyday use.
- No sensitivity issues with the ingredients were identified.
However it was noted that:
- Some individuals may be sensitive to ingredients found in sunscreens.
- Side effects, such as allergic reactions are possible (as is true for any cosmetic, medicines, skin treatment and some foods).
- Consumers are encouraged to perform a test on a small patch of skin prior to use.
SPF-testing data supported SPF claims on aerosol sunscreens, but testing confirmed that application remains an issue:
- Sunscreen is only effective if applied correctly and thoroughly.
- The quantity of product delivered and the amount lost into the atmosphere during aerosol application varies between brands.
Pharmacists and pharmacy assistants can remind consumers of appropriate application of sunscreens, and this is especially important for aerosol sunscreens which are relatively new to the market.
- Apply liberally (at least 1 teaspoon/5 ml for lotions/creams) to each area (e.g. arm, leg, back) for full coverage and effectiveness.
- Re-apply regularly (every two hours), following instructions on the label – especially after swimming or towelling.
- Water activities or activities that may cause perspiration require more frequent application.
- Sunscreen products do not block 100% of UV radiation. You will become sunburnt if your skin is exposed to the sun for extended periods.
- Consumers should report any side effects to the TGA at: www.tga.gov.au/reporting-problems