You are my sunshine

Stuart Fuller

We go to extraordinary lengths to get a suntan when we’re on holiday. I base this statement on the fact that it's 8am on a Sunday here on the Costa Dorada on the east coast of Spain, and most of the sun loungers around the hotel pool are already taken with people sporting various shades of pink through to dirty brown. Tanning is a serious business here and in virtually every resort around the world. The sun has a positive impact on our wellbeing in most cases, so grabbing as much time in it as possible before we head back to our limp summer in the UK is a priority for most British holidaymakers.

It goes without saying that using sunscreen is a must for anyone who travels to warmer climes (and on the odd occasion in the UK when the mercury hits the mid-twenties), but judging by some of the sunburnt bodies here it appears more than a few people have neglected that necessity. Or worse.

What could be worse than not investing in essential insurance for your skin? How about buying fake products that claim to protect you in the sun but simply offer no benefit to you and your most cherished possessions; your family.

Most sun creams provide protection against the ageing UVA rays, which cause skin damage and premature wrinkles, and the stronger UVB rays that cause sunburn. Instances of skin cancer in the UK alone are up by 360% since the late 1970s, with over 14,500 cases reported each year according to Cancer Research UK. Part of the reason behind those numbers is that our lifestyle choices have changed in line with an increase in our living standards and a drop in the cost of overseas travel. In other words, more of us annually go and spend time in the sun. The value of the sun care product market is estimated at over $5.6 billion a year in the US alone.

Sun cream is one of the many products that’s constantly being improved. Advances in medical research lead to a greater understanding of the healing and harming properties of the sun, which in turn enables the sun screen manufacturers to adapt their products accordingly. The process isn't cheap, and understandably those companies pass the costs onto the consumer who should be safe in the knowledge that they’re buying a product that will do its job in the sun.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to find ineffective and, more worryingly, counterfeit sun care products – often sold at low cost. In the current climate where we’re all looking at controlling costs, buying a cheap, unknown brand of sun screen could lead to very painful results. As with fake foodstuff and counterfeit medicines, there’s no limit to what could be put into unauthorized sun care products. A simple search on well-known online marketplaces in China reveals large quantities of some of the most popular brand names on offer; you’d put money on them being counterfeits.

Remember too that there are active ingredients within most sun care products, which means their effectiveness diminishes over time. So even a reputable brand sold through disreputable channels could be as bad as buying a fake product in the first place.

Anyone heading to the sunshine should ask themselves whether they’re willing to take a risk and buy a product from an unauthorized source, just for the sake of a few pounds. Don’t let your holiday be ruined by something that’s avoidable.