The research, conducted by the French Federation for Beauty Companies (FEBEA) with research institute OpinionWay, found that whilst 79% of French consumers used sun protection, 20% applied it just once a day which was “very insufficient” compared to the recommended every two hours or more often if bathing or sweating. Results also showed 19% never used sunscreen. The research surveyed just over 1,000 people in France aged 18+ between March 31 and April 1, 2021.
“In total, nearly 40% of French people do not use enough or any sun protection,” FEBEA said.
A split down in demographics showed 27% of men never used sun protection and 30% of aged 65+ didn’t either.
Fear of certain ingredients and a ‘contradictory attitude’ to sun protection
FEBEA said it was clear from the study that there was a “contradictory attitude” amongst consumers when it came to sunscreen use. Despite 89% considering sunscreens to be effective in protection from the dangers associated with sun exposure, 40% never used it or didn’t use it in adequate amounts.
Looking more closely at why, 79% of consumers said they feared sun protection products contained certain ingredients toxic to health. This, FEBEA said, was despite sun filters being one of the categories of ingredients “most controlled by European regulations – the strictest in the world”.
The study also indicated contradictory beliefs in the sustainability of sunscreen brands, with 83% of French people surveyed stating brands had made progress in product efficiency and environmental protection but 86% believing these products polluted the environment. However, FEBEA said there was "no scientific consensus" on the impact of sun filters in marine environments, especially compared to other causes like global warming, and the levels of sun filters in product remained extremely low.
Motivating uptake and wider use of sunscreen
Amongst those consumers who did use sunscreen, findings showed 40% did so to protect themselves from the health risks of sun exposure – a higher percentage than previous years, though a sentiment remained “uneven” across demographics. Younger people, for example, were less motivated by this with just 30% of consumers aged 18-24 using sunscreen for health these reasons.
“On the one hand, we have products that are subject to draconian controls to ensure their safety for health, an efficacy of products that is not debated, and on the other hand we have a serious risk, proven, and noted by all doctors, which is the risk of cancer,” said Emmanuel Guichard, general delegate of FEBEA.
“Faced with these perceptions among the French, cosmetics companies must continue their educational on product safety for health and on everything which is implemented to limit their environmental impact (biodegradability of formulations, water resistance). In addition, we must continue to remember that the risks associated with exposure to the sun, without protection, are fatal. The real danger is not protecting yourself,” Guichard said.