I rarely buy sun cream or SPF sun lotion from pound shops, and there are a number of reasons for this, even though I truly believe that good SPF should be available cheaply. As you probably already know, I’m a big fan of pound shops in general. However, they also have their drawbacks, and there are some areas where they don’t always represent what I’d call good value for money. Sun cream is a good example of this.
Sun cream, sun tan lotion and any other SPF products are important for the health of your skin. They reduce the harmful effects of UV rays, and good products applied correctly can greatly reduce your risk of burning (UVB rays) and ageing prematurely (UVA rays).
When I say ‘applied correctly’, I mean applied generously, and reapplied after swimming, sweating or generally being worn off. You need to use a fair amount of sun cream for it to work properly. One of the biggest problems with expensive creams is that we are more likely to skimp when we apply it, in the hope of making it go further or last longer. This compromises the protection.
So it would appear that pound shops are potentially the answer – the sunscreens are affordable, and therefore you won’t feel the need to spread them too thinly, or avoid reapplying them. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case for two main reasons: firstly the listed SPF is often woefully inadequate, and secondly the quality of the products is extremely difficult for the lay person to guess at.
SPF that isn’t high enough
Let’s look at the listed SPF first. SPF is ‘sun protection factor’, and relates to the amount of extra time the product allows you to remain in the sun. If you burn in say, 10 minutes of sun, SPF 15 will allow you to say in the sun more safely for approximately 150 minutes, or 15 times longer than usual.
Many of the branded, well known products that I’ve seen in pound shops are only SPF 2, SPF 6 or SPF 8 – and this is actually dangerous. Dermatologists and clinical researchers recommend using a minimum of SPF 15, no matter how tanned you are or how dark your natural skin tone is. They also recommend wide-brimmed hats and covering up in the noonday sun. You can still tan through SPF 15, it just happens more slowly and with less risk of burning.
Using SPF 2 or SPF 8 etc can create a false sense of security, and for example users might doze off in the sun and get a bad burn before they realise what’s happened. This can cause severe damage to the skin, and can be a factor in developing skin cancer. It’s especially bad if it happens to children and teenagers, and teenagers might well spend their pre-holiday pocket money in pound shops.
I’m not saying some of these products are fakes, but…
This brings me on to the next issue. Most of the higher-SPF sun creams and lotions I’ve seen in pound shops recently are not well-known brands. Often they are brands that superficially look like famous brands, but they’re essentially unknown. When I’ve looked at the packaging, there seems to be no proof that they have been subjected to the usual standard of UK testing (there’s never any information that mentions both UVA and UVB, for example), and I can’t easily find an expiry date for the product.
Sun cream doesn’t last forever. It has a use-by date for a reason, and that reason is the health of your skin. As things currently stand, I don’t have much confidence that all of these products are going to live up to their claims, and as such I think it’s too much of a risk to be taking.
I have seen a few high SPF products in pound shops by better-known brands such as Malibu. They’ve been well packaged, sealed, clearly labelled, and had expiry dates on the tubes and bottles. I’d say that these are worth buying if you can find them – but they are few and far between. Unfortunately you can’t rely on them being in stock.
What’s the alternative? Go for a real fake!
So, what is worth buying in pound shops? I find branded bottles of wash-off fake tan and gradual self-tanner in these outlets on a regular basis, and these are brands that I’ve previously used and liked. As things currently stand, I definitely reckon you’re better off using pound shop stock to fake a tan, rather than build up the real thing.
For a couple of pounds more, you can find reliable, quality-controlled own-brand sunscreens in bigger supermarkets and high street chemists, especially when there are summer offers and promotions. As sunscreens are essentially a health product rather than a cosmetic, I’d say this is one place where you should pay a little bit extra.
There is a need for a really cheap, reliable, safe, plain sunscreen that you can buy in bulk and slap all over without worrying about the cost – it isn’t a luxury product, and shouldn’t be marketed as such, for the sake of public health. Let’s hope some manufacturer sees this gap in the market soon, and piles them high and sells them cheap.
Would you buy SPF from a pound shop? Do you think sunscreen is too expensive?