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People in poverty are at greater risk of sunburn and skin cancer. Charities are calling for action

The Hygiene Bank is calling for supermarkets, businesses and individuals to donate suncream to their local drop-off points

sunscreen/ sunburn

People are being encouraged to donate suncream so that the vulnerable don't miss out. Image: Pexels

Sunburn and the dangerous consequences that come with it are linked with poverty, charities have warned. People who cannot afford sunscreen are sacrificing it in the cost of living crisis and that can be detrimental to their health. 

Around 25,000 cases of skin cancer are linked with poverty each year, according to the charity Melanoma Focus. For cases of melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer, it’s approximately 4,000.

The charity’s recent survey data showed that half of UK adults think sunscreen is too expensive and most (67%) would use it more if it was cheaper.

One in 10 people don’t use sunscreen at all because of the cost. People on the lowest incomes are less likely to wear sunscreen than any other economic group. But many people don’t know getting sunburnt just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma, according to Cancer Research

Susanna Daniels, the chief executive of Melanoma Focus, said last month: “The government could help make skin protection more accessible to all, regardless of income level, by removing VAT from high-factor sunscreens. This would be a cost-effective way to cut the overall incidence of skin cancer and could help save lives.”



The government has not acted on these calls, with a Treasury spokesperson telling The Guardian: “We recognise the impact that rising prices are having at home which is why we are providing significant support worth on average £3,300 per household. This includes holding down energy bills, uplifting benefits and delivering direct cash payments.

“High-factor sunscreen is on the NHS prescription list for certain conditions and is already provided VAT-free when dispensed by a pharmacist to these patients.”

But Superdrug, which is working with non-profit organisation Beauty Banks to help tackle hygiene poverty in the UK, cut the price of its own-brand sun-care products by 20% in a bid to address the link between poverty, sunburn and skin cancer.

Superdrug’s own brand director Jamie Archer said: “We believe that everyone should have access to the products that protect their health and wellbeing and at an affordable price. Sunscreen is currently classed as a cosmetic product and therefore carries the VAT associated with it, making it unaffordable for some people. 

“Through our work with Beauty Banks, we know that requests for donations of sun care products have gone up, with some people even having to forgo it altogether, which is concerning to hear. We hope that by reducing the price of our Solait range we can help make sun protection more affordable and allow families to stay safe in the sun.”

The Netherlands announced last week it will be providing sunscreen for free this summer in schools, universities, festivals, parks, sports venues and open public spaces. A similar scheme has existed in Australia for decades, with sunscreen subsidised. 

The Hygiene Bank is calling on supermarkets, businesses and individuals to donate sun protection products so that they can be distributed to people who need it most, to protect them from sunburn and more concerning health issues. 

“Everyone deserves to be sun safe,” said Ruth Brock, chief executive of the Hygiene Bank. “Sunburn is a major impact of hygiene poverty and we must act now to reach those most affected by the cost of living crisis. 

“The Hygiene Bank would love supermarkets, local businesses, brands and the public to join our movement and donate sun protection products that our projects can distribute to families across the UK. 

“If we work together, our volunteers can get these donations where they’re needed quickly, through our network of over 1,500 community partners including schools and food banks.”

Brands can reach the Hygiene Bank on brands@thehygienebank.com. Public donations are also welcome and can be made in person at the Hygiene Bank’s local drop-off points or online using their wishlist service. Every bottle of sun protection donated locally is distributed locally.

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