The UK isn’t exactly known for favourable weather. Mostly, we’re tagged with being a wet and gray country, with the odd sunny spell here and there. But there is a misconception on how the sun really affects us – even in our dreary country. Face The Future recently commissioned a study on the UK’s sunscreen habits and the results were really quite startling. Here, we look at some of the key findings from this research and how you can – and why you should- protect your skin from sun damage.

Only 22% of the population wear sunscreen daily and only 55% wear SPF when it is sunny 

This year, the UK’s fastest-growing online beauty retailer, Face the Future, is on a huge mission dedicated to revolutionising consumers’ attitudes to sun and skin safety. Forget the occasional sunscreen slathering reserved for your summer holidays, Face the Future wants to make daily sunscreen a habit, so has launched the 366 Days of SPF campaign.  

The 366 Days of SPF campaign launched with a YouGov survey of over 2,000 participants – and clearly highlights that the UK population is not adhering to SPF guidelines, and does not feel like it is necessary to, putting their skin health at risk. 

Beauty standards of seeking a tan currently outweigh attitudes of worrying about the possibility of skin cancer, and almost half of the population are not familiar with the symptoms of skin cancer. The fear of getting sunburn is greater than that of skin cancer for the UK!

Nearly a third (31%) of the population actively seek a tan, over half of whom do so to look more attractive (53%) and confident (56%). Despite the fact that 72% are concerned about the risks. 

Key findings from the national health SPF survey: 

  • Only 22% of the UK apply SPF daily 
  • 31% of the UK don’t think they have any sun damage
  • Over half (55%) of the UK only wear SPF when it is sunny 
  • 68% of the UK are worried about sunburn and only 61% are concerned about skin cancer  
  • 64% of the UK say SPF is expensive  
  • 40% of the UK who wear SPF only buy it when they go on holiday 
  • 45% of the UK are not worried about getting skin cancer 
  • 48% of the UK that say that daily SPF is one of the most powerful anti-agers for your skin
  • 46% of the UK are not familiar with the symptoms of skin cancer 
  • 56% of the UK who actively seek a tan do so for confidence 
  • 22% of the UK actively seek a tan but feel concerned about the risks 
  • 44% of the UK attribute their skin damage to sunburn, 19% say it’s pigmentation, and 16% say it is due to sunspots 
  • 45% of the UK tend to disagree/strongly disagree with the medical advice to wear SPF every day, even indoors and during winter 

31% of the UK don’t think they have any sun damage 

There is a misconception that damage only occurs when the skin is burned. However, any sun exposure can cause the skin’s cellular DNA to change. Signs of sun damage include: freckles, darker spots, the increase in the presence of moles, changes to moles and freckles and even tanning itself!  Yep, you read that right… the change in pigmentation, melanin, is your skin reacting to the sun exposure and is an attempt to protect itself from further damage. But the tan in itself is a sign of sun damage

Importantly, once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed. So, precautionary measures are the only way to protect your skin – and that is through wearing sunscreen daily. 

Kimberley Medd, Head of Clinic, Face the Future, says: “No matter the weather, the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays are ever present throughout the year, causing damage to the DNA in your skin cells that can result in premature ageing, skin cancer and a host of other skin-related issues. Because of this, it’s important to wear your shield of UV protection every day to protect your skin against the likes of melanoma skin cancer.” 

45% of the UK tend to disagree/strongly disagree with the medical advice to wear SPF every day, even indoors and during winter  

UV light and exposure is ultimately the cause of sun damage, and although the sun is responsible for a significant proportion of that damage – the strength of which varies throughout the year (though UV rays are present year round!), it isn’t the only light source to cause skin damage. 

Blue light, also known as high-energy visible light, or HEV, is emitted from our devices – laptops, tablets and mobiles, and can also cause changes and damage to our skin. Wearing an SPF is the only way to protect your skin and wearing sunscreen year round will help to protect yourself from the potential damage caused by this kind of light too. The 48% of the UK that say that daily SPF is one of the most powerful anti-agers for your skin would be right!

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,065 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th – 7th February 2024. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+) 

Featured image: Andrea Piacquadio

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