68% of respondents to the question, "What is the best way to spot a Brit abroad?" answered "sunburn". Calf length socks with shorts are also a dead giveaway in my experience. Anyhow, the survey was commissioned by Afterburn Sunburn Rescue Gel, which claims to not only soothe sunburn but also to prevent future damage and premature aging. It does all this by utilizing something called OSMO4.

It turns out that OSMO4 isn't an ingredient so much as a way of delivering ingredients. It is made by a Swiss company with a near-incomprehensible web site. OSMO4 uses hydrogels, which are polymers that are able to absorb very high concentrations of water. Afterburn Sunburn Rescue Gel says it works by drawing water from the body's own skin to the damaged area.

The hydrogel also stores other ingredients such as glycerin and delivers them to the skin. Unfortunately, Afterburn Sunburn Rescue Gel's hydrogels are also delivering sodium hydroxide (commonly known as caustic soda and used for cleaning drains). Sodium hydroxide turns up in a lot of cosmetics and can cause irritation at very low levels. There is also PEG 8. PEGs are polyethelene glycol compounds, which invariably contain impurities that can be toxic. One in particular, ethylene oxide, is related to cancer.

The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Committee (the body that represents the cosmetic industry) says that PEG compounds should not be used on damaged skin. And what is sunburn exactly?