Over the past few weeks, South African sunscreen manufacturers as well as the Cancer Association of South Africa (Cansa) have come under fire in the media.
It began with John Robbie's 702 Talk Radio investigation (or was it a witch hunt?) into the efficacy of our local sunscreens and then spilled into a Nose Week exposé.
If you're not familiar with what went down, here's a brief summary of the ruckus:
- Previously, UVA exposure was thought negligible in the cause of malignant melanoma;
- Recently, international research has proved otherwise – UVA is now a co-culprit with UVB;
- Global demand for better protection in sunscreens against UVA resulted in the drafting of the International Standard (ISO) for UVA protection (June 2012);
- Next, Cansa commissioned independent research into South African manufactured sunscreen as a litmus test, using only 35 samples (a representation of 9.8 percent of the 357 sunscreens sold in SA);
- Cansa asked Future Cosmetics (research lab) to test sunscreens against the Colipa Standard, a European UVA benchmark similar to the ISO – as some sunscreens sold in SA are imported from Europe;
- 702 Talk Radio and Nose Week got wind of the results being less than satisfactory, but Cansa couldn't publish the final results due to gagging order and red tape;
- Cansa released a public response saying it was in discussion with local manufacturers and had developed a new seal of approval.
As we all know, Cansa is only a watchdog, and cannot enforce certain practices on local sunscreen manufacturers. The non-profit organisation has, however, told manufacturers and distributors that if they wish to have Cansa's new seal of approval on their products, they have up until March 2013 to up their UVA protection levels.
While the new ISO will be incorporated into the South African standard from 1 April 2013, it's still 2012, and summer is still on its way. Recognising this Cansa, has released a list of sunscreens that are compliant with the Colipa standard.
In our attempt to make sense of the commotion, BeautySA spoke to a few sunscreen providers about UVA protection, the ISO standard and the Colipa standard.
"L'Oréal Research works closely with Colipa and our sun protection products provide extensive, balanced protection that goes far beyond the internationally recognised standards,' says a L'Oreal representative.
"Garnier and Vichy products are manufactured and tested in accordance to European standards. All sun protection products manufactured by the L'Oreal Group have for many years included high levels of protection against UVA and UVB radiation."
Ultrasun also adheres to the Colipa standard, but gave some insight into how to judge which products are the ones you should be buying.
"The best method of knowing whether a product complies with Colipa is to ask for the test results," says Peter Goeble, CEO of Ultrasun.
"However, clients should also look out for the way in which UVA claims are made. If a manufacturer merely states that their product protects against UVA rays, then this is only their opinion. It has not been independently tested or verified.
Only those products showing the words "UVA" in the circular shape have been tested by Colipa to confirm that their products comply with the minimum requirements."
Despite this rather confusing situation, Cansa says you still need to remain sun smart:
C – Cover up with suitable clothing with adequate UV-protection
A – Avoid the sun between 10am and 3pm when solar radiation is most intense
R – Rub on an effective broad-spectrum UVA/UVB (with a minimum SPF20 and maximum SPF50) on all exposed parts of the body
E – Examine your skin regularly and have a friend examine your back. Have a medical skin examination once every winter when your skin is at its lightest
BeautySA found "UVA" in the circular shape on these products:
Bioderma Photoderm Max SPF50, R159.95 for 40ml
Vichy Capital Soleil SPF50 Skin Cell Sun Protection Spray, R199 for 125ml
Garnier Ambre Solaire UV Sensitive Protection Lotion, R129.99
Ultrasun High 30 Anti-Ageing Face, R179.95
Visit Beauty South Africa for more information