Consumer education: how can we make salt’s harm visible?

Earlier this month, the British Association of Dermatologists published a press release with the highlights from a survey of Britain’s sun protection habits. The highlights included:

  • 80% don’t apply sunscreen before going out in the sun and then shortly afterwards;
  • 70% fail to reapply sunscreen every two hours as recommended;
  • 35% would only seek shade if they were hot, rather than to avoid burning.


The article went on to say:

“These results show just how widely sunscreens are not being used properly by the British public, and highlight an important area for sun awareness campaigns to target.”


Generally, we are quite bad at assessing future costs and gains. Moreover, we weigh losses more heavily than gains. So, trading off a cost in the present moment (i.e., re/applying the sunscreen) for a gain in the future (i.e., preventing skin cancer), is always going to be a ‘difficult calculation’. Particularly, when the harmful consequences of sun exposure are, generally, not visible until it is too late.


This is why I think that Nivea’s 2015 campaign was soooo good. The company used UV camera technology to show how sunlight produces skin changes – you can see the video below, and read about the campaign here:


The survey also found that 81% of people wear sunglasses, which the article’s authors interpret as “suggesting that people are more concerned with protecting their eyes than their skin, or wear them for reasons of fashion”.


Now if only somebody could find a way of showing my other half the harmful effects of salt… Or, failing that, make it really unfashionable?! Any tips, dear readers?

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