You don't need a prescription for this item - it can be purchased at low cost from shops and pharmacies. NHS England would appreciate your support in helping to save money by buying these if you are able to, rather than having it on prescription. The cost of sun protection products in Kent and Medway was £12,000 in 2022/23 Sunscreens protect skin against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This is divided into ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB).

Availability of sunscreens on prescriptions

Only certain sunscreens can be prescribed on the NHS by a doctor, and they can only be prescribed for certain approved indications. For example, sun blocks can be prescribed for use by people with conditions such as photodermatoses, a group of skin conditions associated with an abnormal reaction to UV radiation. UVA radiation is largely responsible for photodermatoses whereas UVB is the main factor in sunburn.

Advice for patients

• If you are not eligible for sunscreens on prescription under the approved indications on the NHS, then you can purchase an appropriate sunscreen over the counter (OTC) in a pharmacy or supermarket. • Make sure the sunscreen you buy has at least SPF 15 to protect against UVB and good UVA protection, for example, at least '4-star UVA protection’.

• Sunscreens are not a substitute for covering the skin and avoiding sunlight.

• Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions about applying the sunscreen and the amount to use. Apply the sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going out in the sun to allow it to dry, and then again shortly after heading outdoors to cover any missed patches and to make sure you’re wearing a sufficient layer. Be extra careful to apply sunscreen to ears, the temple, the back, and sides of the neck.

• Reapply the sunscreen at least every two hours.

• ‘Water resistance’ is tested by the ability of a sunscreen to retain its sun protection properties following two 20-minute intervals (40 minutes total) of moderate activity in water. However, up to 85% of a product can be removed by towel drying, so you should reapply after swimming, sweating, or any other vigorous or abrasive activity. • Protect the skin with clothing, including a hat, t-shirt, and sunglasses.

• Spend time in the shade between 11am and 3pm when it’s sunny.

• Keep babies and young children out of direct sunlight.

• If you are avoiding the sun completely you may need to take a vitamin D supplement to reduce the risk of vitamin D deficiency. Supplements are widely available from pharmacies, supermarkets, or health food shops. 

Further information

For further information please click on the links below.

Sunscreen information 

Sunscreen facts

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