A graduate claims factor 50 sunscreen left her covered in agonising blisters and looking like a burns victim – and fears she is now at high risk of skin cancer.
Sarah Madden said doctors told her she will need regular melanoma skin checks for the rest of her life after suffering second degree burns from three hours in the sun last month.
The 35-year-old claims she slathered ‘a very thick layer’ of Banana Boat ‘sport’ 50+ suncream all over her skin 30 minutes before heading to a popular beach on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia, during a holiday there in late December.
Sarah, originally from Melbourne, said she spent three hours at the beach between 10am and 1pm on December 28 swimming, paddle boarding and sitting in the shade under a tree.
But despite reapplying after getting out of the water, she claims the skin on her back erupted with massive fluid-filled blisters which needed hospital treatment – and is still scarlet three weeks later.
Banana Boat have apologised to Sarah but said customers can be reassured their products provide ‘safe and effective sun protection’.
Sarah said: ‘I always take good care of my skin especially when going in the sun.
‘So, before I went to the beach, I stood in front of the mirror and slathered myself in loads of Banana Boat sunscreen to the point where I looked super white.
‘I made sure I put lots on and that I didn’t miss any spots because I hate getting sunburnt.
‘It says it is four hours water resistant and 50+ protection is meant to be strong, so I had faith in the product when I was applying it.
‘I went out paddle boarding and then came back onto the sand and sat under the shade of a tree.
‘I reapplied it vigorously before I went back out swimming. I thought I’d be okay.
‘But when I got home and took a shower, I felt like my back was starting to get really hot.
‘Later that afternoon it had taken on this deep red colour and I thought ‘oh my god, how could I have gotten sunburnt?’, so I lathered myself in aloe vera gel and went to bed.
‘But the next morning the pain was just unbearable. It was 10/10 excruciating agony, I can’t explain it.
‘Then I looked at my back in the mirror and saw these severe second-degree burns and all these blisters.
‘I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was the worst pain of my entire life. I felt like my back was on fire.’
Sarah said she is ‘furious’ the Banana Boat sunscreen did not protect her against the severe sunburn, which she said took over three weeks to heal.
She still has visible red marks all over her back more than three weeks after she was burnt on December 28.
She claims she was forced to visit her local hospital every day for a week so a nurse could change the dressings on her enormous oozing blisters, so they wouldn’t get infected.
On top of this, she alleges she was forced to rely on over-the-counter medication to get some relief from her unbearable pain.
But Sarah said she did not truly comprehend the severity of her condition until a doctor warned her that she was now at high risk of getting skin cancer later in life because of her severe sunburn.
Sarah said: ‘I’ve never had an issue with another sunscreen before.
‘I’ve even used the Banana Boat 30+ sunscreen once before without any real issues, so I was outraged this happened to me.
‘For whatever reason this sunscreen just did not protect me at all.
‘I feel sick knowing I had been out in the sun without being protected.
‘For three weeks, I couldn’t even sleep on my back because the pain was so unbearable and if I accidently rolled over onto my back while sleeping, I’d wake up straight away in completely agony.
‘Having a shower was an agonizing experience, I’d try and avoid having the water on my back and had to wash my hair with my head tilted over.
‘Drying myself became a nightmare. I couldn’t rub that area because it was so burnt, so I’d have to lean forward and gently place the towel on my back to dry it.
‘It was the worst sunburn of my entire life and it still hasn’t completely healed. I felt like a burns victim.
‘I was getting a dressing changed and the doctor walked in a gasped.
‘He asked me what happened, and I explained that I got sunburnt.
‘He took a closer look and said that the blistering was a really bad sign because it is pre-cancerous condition and I’m now at risk of getting melanoma down the track because of it.
‘That was really hard to hear. Now I will have to get skin checks all the time.
‘I’m going to be worried for the rest of my life that I’ll get skin cancer.
‘Even now three weeks later, I’m still so sunburnt but at least the blisters have healed.
‘I will never be using any Banana Boat products ever again and I’m warning all my friends and family not to either.’
A spokesman for Edgewell Personal Care, Banana Boat’s parent company, said: ‘We are very sorry to hear about Sarah’s experience.
‘While we cannot speak about her situation specifically, we want to reassure our consumers that they can feel confident using our products for safe and effective sun protection.
‘All of our sun protection products undergo rigorous testing for SPF, broad spectrum and water resistance, ensuring they will perform as described on packaging, and are appropriately labelled for SPF.
‘Every Banana Boat sunscreen sold in Australia is uniquely formulated to meet the high Australian standards, administered by the Therapeutic Goods Association.
‘While our sunscreen products offer water resistance benefits, it’s important to understand that when you go swimming, towel dry your skin or perspire during exercise, you can rub off some of your sunscreen.
‘That’s why we recommend you reapply more frequently, at least every two hours and more after swimming, excessive perspiration or towel drying.
‘At Banana Boat, we also want to stress that sunscreen is only one part of an important combination of actions people must take to protect themselves against the sun.
‘And no sunscreen – even SPF50+ products – provides 100 per cent protection from the sun. We always recommend our consumers avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, seek shade between the hours of 10am and 3pm and always wear protective clothing, hats and eyewear.
‘It’s also important to follow our product label instructions: always store sunscreen in accordance with its labels, use only as directed and reapply frequently as directed.’
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) states all sunscreens must meet mandatory requirements for labelling, advertising, testing and ingredients.
Sunscreens must be manufactured by a TGA approved manufacturing facility, and can only include TGA approved ingredients – each of which has been assessed for safety.