Lizzie and Ron explore the burning question of sun cream

As temperatures rise, the Banks family go for a picnic on a sunny afternoon, and an incident with Grandad Ron’s Panama hat opens a discussion about the relative merits of sun cream in protection against sunburn.

Grandad Ron took off his battered old Panama hat and dropped it onto his grandson Jack’s head, where it covered the youngster’s eyes and ears before being ripped off and cast aside.

His grandfather retrieved the headgear and put it back on his own head. “You’ll be sorry if the sun burns your head,” young man, said Ron.

The family had gone out for a traditional family picnic and had been sitting around a plaid rug in the park. Grandma Lorna had found a wicker picnic hamper from somewhere and had spent the morning making sandwiches and flasks of tea. She was now playing ball with her son Ollie and her granddaughter Alice.

Lizzie stepped into the conversation. “I’ve covered him in Factor 50 sun cream,” she said. “He’ll be fine.”

“I know we’re not going to argue, but how can you be sure he’s properly protected? That’s delicate skin, that is.”

Lizzie held up the bottle. “Read what it says here on the bottle, Dad,” she said.

Ron took the bottle from her and read the small print. Handing it back, he said: “And there are some creams that claim they can stop women’s skin getting older. That’s like time travel. You and I both know it’s not going to happen. I’ve been reading some research about the protection offered by sun creams in varying protection factors, and it’s just the same with these as it is with anything else – they’re not all the same. I think it’s important to look at some independent research. For instance, a Factor 50 suncream doesn’t necessarily offer twice the protection of a Factor 25 one. And if there’s a difference, then it’s best to err on the side of caution.”

Lizzie gave Jack another of Grandma Lorna’s cream cheese sandwiches. “But I am being cautious,” she protested. “That’s a market leading suncream.”

“Of course you are. But how does being a market leader make it the better brand? Take away the advertising and the hype, and what are you left with? Rhetorical question really,” he added. “Anyway, the best form of protection from the sun is not to spend too long in it. Hence the hat.” He flicked the brim of his Panama. “The shade’s free and you know it protects against sunburn. Sit under a tree, or wear a hat and long sleeves. It works for me, and for Grandma. Mind you, he said, judging by the colour of her cheeks, she’s getting a bit hot playing ball. She’ll be back for a cup of tea and sit down in a minute, you watch.”

Lizzie ignored the comment about her mother-in-law. “So you’re saying Jack’s getting sunburned now, sitting here?”

“No, I’m not,” said Ron. “He’s undoubtedly protected against the sun. What I’m saying is that you don’t know how well protected he is, because you’ve bought suncream in a hurry as part of the weekly shop, and you’ve relied on instinct and marketing as a basis for deciding how effective it is, that’s all. And as I said, we’re not going argue about it, because I’m of the opinion that you’ll agree with me, when you think about it.”

Lizzie did think about it, looking at the ball game happening a few feet away. And she did agree with him. “I’ve got a brolly in the car. I’m going to fetch it, and he can sit in the shade under it,” she said.

“That’s my girl,” said Ron. Nodding towards Jack, who was rubbing his sandwich into his face and hair, he added: “Mind you, it may not be necessary, if we knew the sun protector factor of cream cheese…”