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EU aims to enhance sunscreen labeling

By Simon Pitman , 05-May-2006

The European Commission is making moves to ensure the accuracy of sunscreen labeling in a move that will eradicate the use of the term 'sunblocker' and will ensure that products' UVA protection are clearly indicated.

The public consultation primarily targets UVA protection. Although UVB rays are known to cause sunburn and sun damage, UVA rays, although not a cause of burning, have an equally damaging effect on the skin and are also the cause of skin cancers.

The draft Recommendation on the Efficacy of Sunscreen Products and Claims aims to improve awareness of the dangers of UVA damage to skin and to ensure that consumers have the means of identifying products that provide adequate protection for both types of UV rays.

 

Sunblockers and 'total protection' have also been targeted because, the Commission says, total sun blocks do not exist. This type of wording has been outlawed because it gives consumers a false sense of protection and security.

 

This claim also relates to baby and children's sunscreen products, which the Commission says often have misleading information about the protection levels the products afford to youngsters.

 

The Commission has also moved to ensure that adequate warning is given about the importance of sunscreens, backed up by usage instructions that clearly show the consumer how to use a sunscreen product correctly.

 

Commission vice-president Gunter Verheugen described the current situation relating to sunscreen labelling as 'untenable' and went on to highlight the importance of the industry's commitment to label such products correctly.

 

"Consumers must be made fully aware that no sunscreen product can provide 100 per cent protection against hazardous UV-radiation," said Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, responsible for health and consumer protection.

 

"There are serious health risks, such as skin cancer, linked to insufficient protection from the sun. EU citizens need to be fully informed about what sunscreens will and will not do for them," he added.

 

In addition to sunscreen protection the Commission also backed up its new regulations by reinforcing its recommendations about sunbathing when the sun is at its strongest as well as the importance of wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.

 

In turn the Commission also advices that manufacturers incorporate these recommendations on sunscreen labels.

 

European industry body Colipa said it gave the recommendations its backing and said that it would be giving its total backing towards the moves, stating that it was in the interest of consumers travelling worldwide.

 

"We will, in co-operation with all stakeholder, continue to contribute to the main objective: to provide consumers with understandable and adequate product information," said Bertil Heerink, director-general of Colipa.

 

According to the Commission the estimated retail value of the sunscreen products industry in Europe was approximately £1.35bn in 2005, represent a 4 per cent increase on sales in the previous year.

 

Currently the EU market for sunscreen products is dominated by European companies, who hold seven out of the top ten current positions and the market share of the three non-European companies only amounts to 12 per cent.

 

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