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J Invest Dermatol. 2007 Jan;127(1):41-8. Epub 2006 Oct 26.

Skin protection by sunscreens is improved by explicit labeling and providing free sunscreen.

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La Grande Motte, VVF Vacances, France.


Whatever the improvement in the protection spectrum of sunscreens (SCs), actual skin protection mainly depends on the way they are used, especially on the quantity applied. This prospective randomized study assessed how much sun protection factor (SPF) labeling, which is hardly understandable by a layman, and high cost account for misuse of SCs. In three beach resorts in France, 364 individuals were blindly randomized during their holidays to three arms (1) free SCs intervention (FS) = four types of SCs with their usual SPF label (60B-A, 20B-A, 12B-A, 6B-3A) at free disposal; (2) same free SCs with an explicit labeling (FNL), including sunburn protection, likely protection against long-term effects of UV, and possibility to get a tan; and (3) no intervention (NI). As compared to FS, FNL increased the quantity of SCs applied, mainly in the minority of people who were not "tan-seekers", reduced sunburns particularly in sun-sensitive individuals (25.6 vs 58.3%, P=0.005), and induced a shift in the level of SCs chosen. Free delivery SCs were associated with a more systematic application of SCs in case of exposure, and a decreased sunburn occurrence, without increase of exposure. These results suggest that a labeling more explicit for the public would result in a better protection in SC users and that cost could be a limiting factor to use SC as often as necessary.

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