Cape Town. 181210. Children playing in the surf at Sunrise Beach in Muizenberg. Picture Leon Lestrade.

Johannesburg - The Cancer Association of South Africa’s admission earlier this week that it is endorsing sunscreen products that may not offer adequate protection against harmful sun rays is “disturbing”, a manufacturer says.

Speaking on Talk Radio 702 on Wednesday, Dr Dagmar Whitaker, a dermatologist, said there was an increase in new melanoma cases in SA.

She said the sunscreen quality issue was a concern all over the world because, as technology improved, so did the standards of what was expected from a sunscreen product. “What was acceptable 20 years ago, no one will look at now.”

Whitaker said the problem was that public education on the harmful effects of sunburn had not advanced as doctors would have liked to see. Dermatologists, she said, would simply advise patients to use the best sunblock they could find with the highest SPF (sun protection factor).

“Nothing under 30 is even considered as sunscreen, one needs to go over 50,” she said.

Whitaker said sunscreens were classified as somewhere between a cosmetic and a pharmaceutical product. They were not considered a pharmaceutical product by the Medicines Control Council, and were thus unregulated.

“It is classified as cosmeceutical, even overseas. We really have to go on hearsay and trust manufacturers if they say what is inside is adequate,” she said.

Glenn Brauns, joint chief executive of Incolabs, said recent reports that SA standards were inferior to those of European and other Western countries were “disturbing”.

Brauns, whose company manufactures Tropitone, Everysun and SP20 Suncare, among others, said sun protection was of vital importance to Incolabs. As a leading player in this industry, it considered consumer safety fundamental to the integrity of its brands, to ethical business practices and also to its responsibility as a producer of quality sun protection products.

“Incolabs’s Tropitone and Everysun brands in cream, lotion, milk spray and gel formats have obtained the SABS-issued SANS 1557 standard from 2009, as well as international European Cosmetics Association Colipa requirements,” he said.

Future Cosmetics, the laboratory commissioned by Cansa to test locally manufactured sunscreen products, made the organisation sign a confidentiality clause barring it from publicising the results, in which many of the local brands – some carrying the Cansa stamp of approval – were found to be “not optimal”.

According to investigative magazine noseweek, Future Cosmetics is alleged to have enforced the confidentiality clause to protect the sunscreen manufacturers because some were clients.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Future Cosmetics claims the test results were not valid as per the European guidelines for UVA testing.

The tests, it said, were only a screening result for quality control purposes, as per the written contract between Cansa and Future Cosmetics. It claimed that European guidelines required at least three plates to be tested with five results per plate for 15 data points. Future Cosmetics tested only one plate as per the agreed Cansa contract.

“The results could still change, once a full test is performed. Our standard requires a UVA:UVB ratio of 0.4. In my opinion it is unfair to require the SA market to comply with a European guideline which at this stage is outdated,” Future Cosmetics said in a statement.

The company did not refute claims that they enforced the confidentiality clause to protect clients. - The Star