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Sun Damage: Over a million using creams over a decade old

  • Just over one in 10 UK adults agree they are prepared to risk skin cancer in the quest for a sun tan
  • From applying out of date sun cream to wearing no sun protection at all, a new study reveals the nation’s sun safety habits
  • Dermatology Consultants at King Edward VII’s Hospital share sun safety advice.

As temperatures begin to rise in the UK, a new study suggests millions of adults are taking unnecessary risks when it comes to protecting their skin against sun damage.

The research, commissioned by dermatology consultants at independent charitable hospital, King Edward VII’s, explored the nation’s attitudes towards protecting their skin against the suns’ rays.

It found that, despite the risks associated with sun damage, there is still a cavalier attitude amongst many individuals when it comes to wearing sun protection. Nearly one in 10 Brits (9%) admit to only wearing sun cream when on holiday abroad and around 4 million completely shun sun protection in the UK, even during hot weather. One in 20 (5%) adults also wrongly believe they don’t need to wear sun protection at all.

Also of concern, 1.4 million adults are still using sun cream they purchased over 10 years ago. This is far longer than recommended 6-24 months that a cream will keep and be effective for.
Dr Catherine Borysiewicz, Dermatology Consultant at King Edward VII’s Hospital said: “Sun protection is vital, whether you’re in the UK or abroad, and irrespective of your skin colour. Sun creams and sprays provide the necessary protection from skin damage to potentially long-term or even fatal conditions. It is also important to purchase new sun protection each year, as creams do expire and will become less effective.”

Tanning pressure

The quest for sun-kissed skin is also leading some to take drastic measures. Nearly a quarter (23%) of UK adults agree they don’t feel good without a tan and around one fifth (17%) agree they feel pressured to be bronzed by influencers and celebrities.

Furthermore, just over a tenth (11%) of respondents agree they’d be willing to risk skin cancer if it meant having a sun tan, with nearly a third (29%) agreeing they’d used sunbeds in the past. One in 10 agreed that they had bought and tried potentially dangerous tanning products such as Melanotan-2 to darken their skin, using it either as an injection or nasal spray.

Catherine continues: “It’s extremely concerning to see the lengths people are going to just to achieve a sun tan. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer but many patients could have prevented their diagnosis by taking greater care of their skin. The rise in popularity of tanning products, like Melanotan-2 that can be taken as nasal spray or injection is very worrying. These products are potentially very dangerous and have been linked to cancer. Really, the only safe way to achieve an all over, year-round tan, without the health risks is using fake tan.”

Consultants in King Edward VII’s Hospital’s dermatology clinic treat a comprehensive range of skin conditions affecting all areas of the body. Services include mole mapping, diagnosis and treatment for inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and acne and treatment for skin cancers to offer early access to treatment for skin cancer, which can have a positive impact on the long term prognosis for patients. According to Cancer Research UK 100% of people with melanoma skin cancer will survive a year or more after treatment if the disease is caught at its earliest stage, compared with 53% of cases diagnosed in its latest stage.

Catherine’s top sun safety tips:

  • Use in-date SPF – SPF actually has a use-by date, which is typically around a year, but it varies by brand. Check the bottle to see how long your product should last, and if in doubt, throwing out last year’s sun creams and using an in-date SPF ensures it’s still providing maximum protection
  • Cover your whole body – when applying sun cream, people tend to apply to their face, arms and chest, but can often forget to protect other parts of their body like their eyelids, scalps, and feet, but these can still burn like any other part of the body. Use sun cream all over your body, and cover up with light clothing, hats and sunglasses to boost your protection when out and about
  • Don’t underestimate the British sun – we can have some pretty hot days in the UK, and using sun protection shouldn’t just be reserved for holidays and trips abroad. We should actually be using SPF every day to prevent sun damage, particularly on parts of the body that are always exposed like your neck and face, even in overcast weather
  • If you do get burnt – cool down your body with a cold compress. This will pull heat away from the site of the burn and help ease inflammation. A cool shower and/or a wet towel placed on the affected area can provide some immediate respite. Once cooled, you can add a moisturiser, such as Aloe Vera to the affected area to soothe the skin.

Find out more about King Edward VII’s Hospital Dermatology Department 


King Edward VII’s Hospital commissioned Censuswide Research to survey a nationally representative sample of 2,002 UK adults aged 18+ between 4 and 6 May 2022. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. Throughout ‘agree’ refers to the results for ‘strongly agree’ or ‘somewhat agree’ to the relevant statements.

  1. According to the 2020 ONS mid-year population estimate figures there are 52,890,044 people aged 18+ in the UK. 2.7% of respondents said they had Suncream over 10 years old at home = 1,428,031 people.
  2. According to the 2020 ONS mid-year population estimate figures there are 52,890,044 people aged 18+ in the UK. 7.74% of respondents said they don’t wear suncream in the UK even during hot weather = 4,093,689 people

For more information contact
or: Tabby Haysom T – 07719939902 E –