VAT burn, not sunburn

Published 14th Mar 2024 by PB Admin

As part of its ‘366 Days of SPF’ campaign, online beauty retailer and West Yorkshire-based advanced skin clinic Face the Future has teamed up with Scottish Member of Parliament (SMP) Amy Callaghan.

As part of her VAT Burn campaign, Callaghan petitioned for the UK government to remove VAT on all SPF products. As sunscreens are recommended by the NHS and viewed by medics as essential for public health and prevention, she believes they should be more affordable.

To promote the use of sunscreen and encourage other retailers and the government to follow suit, Face the Future is giving customers 20% off all SPF products until the end of May.

This comes after a recent push by several UK cancer charities for the government to scrap the VAT on SPF products amid the cost of living crisis.

On March 14, celebrated beauty journalist Nadine Baggott hosted a panel of key voices in sun safety including Callaghan, as well as Face the Future director Julia Barcoe Thompson, Heliocare dermatologist Dr Emma Wedgeworth, melanoma advocate Lisa Costello and British Skin Foundation dermatologist Dr Derrick Phillips.

Being a two-time melanoma survivor herself, Callaghan is hugely passionate about getting rid of VAT on SPF to aid in prevention and help protect NHS budgets, and regularly pushes for this in parliament.

“The NHS does an amazing job at raising awareness, but the UK government is not playing its part,” she said. “Sunscreens being subject to VAT can lead people to risk sun exposure completely unprotected, or to buy cheaper products that don’t provide enough protection.

“As of this weekend, I will be 10 years cancer free. In that time, we have seen treatment for melanoma progress massively, but the prevention of it hasn’t changed much at all,” she added. “In fact, it's become much more expensive to protect your skin from the sun. We need to turn that around and make sunscreen more affordable. We need to make sure more people protect their skin from the sun; this will ultimately save lives.”

As part of the campaign, Face the Future has conducted a YouGov survey of over 2,000 participants, highlighting that the UK population is not adhering to SPF guidelines and putting their skin health at risk.

The survey found that:

  • 22% of the UK apply SPF daily with only 8% reapplying it
  • 55% of the UK only apply SPF when it is sunny
  • While 68% of the UK are worried about sunburn, only 61% are worried about skin cancer
  • 64% say SPF is expensive
  • 40% of the UK who wear SPF only wear it only holiday
  • 55% of the UK spend less than £25 on skincare per month
  • 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. 

What the goverment needs to do 

As well as scrapping VAT, the experts on the panel stated that the government needs to do more to encourage the public to protect their skin. They highlighted Australia’s ‘Slip-Slop-Slap’ campaign from the 80s, centered on a cartoon character reminding people to slip on a shirt, slop on some sunblock and slap on a hat, which has been credited with reducing Australian skin cancer cases over the past 40 years. 

“The way we address sun safety is through better education to bust myths about tanning and skin cancer,” said Dr Phillips. 

“Even if you're not getting sunburned, you are still causing damage, and this can accumulate over time and cause skin cancer. Most people believe skin cancer is something only older people deal with but I am diagnosing more and more people under the age of 30 my youngest case was 23.”

GPs also need further education on skin cancer and sun safety, according to the expert panel.

“I went to my GP five times before I got referred,” shared Callaghan. While highlighting her respect for GPs and the enormous pressure they are under, she questioned whether more education and awareness was needed for medical professionals, as well as the wider society.

“We believe that everyone in the UK has the right to sun safety and skin health,” said Barcoe Thompson. “At Face the Future, we have SPF and suncare products at all price points, to ensure that we remain accessible to everyone.

“However, to further support consumers in their choices, as part of the 366 Days of SPF campaign, we will be cutting VAT on all SPF products for from March 14 to May 31, 2024. We hope that this additional 20% saving will encourage UK consumers to begin or continue their SPF journey.”

PB Admin

PB Admin

Published 14th Mar 2024

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