September 12, 2017
1 min read

Clearer labeling may guide sunscreen purchasing decisions

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Consumers had difficulty understanding sunscreen labels with regard to skin protection parameters, according to recent findings.

The researchers aimed to evaluate knowledge, use and purchasing behaviors of sunscreen among U.S. adults. They suggested that there may be limitations in knowledge, particularly surrounding ultraviolet A, ultraviolet B and skin cancer protection.

The study included 711 participants who completed an online survey at Research Match between June and August 2016.

Results showed that 91% of respondents wore sunscreen to prevent sunburns, while 87% used it to prevent skin cancer and 64% used it to prevent premature skin aging.

Sweat and water resistance was the top factor that influenced purchasing decisions, at 79%. Price motivated 75% of respondents’ purchases, while friend or family recommendations motivated 45%.

Conversely, broad-spectrum protection only motivated 39% of purchases overall. Broad-spectrum protection was an influential factor in purchasing for 46% of respondents older than age 50 years, 38% of those aged 26 to 50 years (P = .04), and 32% of those aged 18 to 25 years (P = .01).

Individuals with a personal history of skin cancer were more likely to report broad-spectrum protection as a factor in purchasing than those who did not have a history of skin cancer (OR = 2.75; 95% CI, 1.6-4.75).

Most respondents (90%) suggested that sunscreen labels should contain information about the level of protection against sunburns, while 82% believed labels should contain information about skin cancer protection and 67% believed there should be information about skin aging.

Furthermore, the researchers showed participants one proposed label from the FDA’s Consumer Health Information update that depicted UVA and UVB protection separately and one current sunscreen label with UVA and UVB protection combined. Participants were better able to identify the level of both UVA (78% vs. 52%; P < .001) and UVB (86% vs. 27%; P < .001) protection from the proposed label compared with the current label.

“Current terminology used on sunscreen labels, specifically the broad-spectrum designation, is confusing to consumers,” the researchers concluded. “Alternative labeling methods, such as one in which the levels of UVA and UVB protection are represented separately, might guide consumer purchasing of adequately protective sunscreens. ... In addition to implementing clearer labels, continued educational efforts are also needed to inform the public of important factors to consider when choosing a sunscreen.” – by Rob Volansky

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.