Lululemon takes heat over anti-sunscreen message

Vancouver yogawear-maker Lululemon is generating controversy again over an anti-sunscreen message printed on its shopping bags.

“Sunscreen absorbed into the skin might be worse for you than sunshine. Get the right amount of sunshine,” the message reads.

Most dermatologists and the Canadian Cancer Society recommend sunscreen as a key defence against skin cancer,  and say the anti-sunscreen slogan sends the wrong message.

Lululemon began to take heat over the bags a few days ago, after a Reddit reader questioned the statement that sunscreen might be worse than sunshine and wondered if that is “remotely true.”

After stories appeared in the New York Daily News and the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the company issued a statement acknowledging its sunscreen message was “not research-based.”

Not ‘research-based’

“The manifesto design on our shoppers is a collection of statements that are ever-evolving and intended to spark conversation. The design has been printed intermittently on our shoppers since 2011 and we acknowledged that it is not research-based,” the statement read.

lululemon bag

The Lululemon shopping bag has several inspirational messages, and one about sunscreen that has raised questions. (CBC)

The Lululemon bags, which are covered with multiple messages promoting exercise, stress reduction, friendship and creativity, have been in use since 2011.

A June 9, 2011, blog post describes some “common misconceptions” about the efficacy of sunscreen and recommends Lululemon sun blocker tops as a way of protecting yourself against the sun. The message to cover up with clothing, rather than leaving skin exposed, is fully consistent with dermatologists’ recommendations.

But parts of the blog post raised red flags, including the opening statement which seems to echo the message on the shopping bag.

“Sunscreen use is at an all time high (good) but so are skin cancer rates (bad).  ‘Sunscreen causes cancer’ would’ve made a much more sensational title for this post but it’s actually misuse of sunscreen that’s adding to cancer’s success,” it reads in part.

Questionable judgment

Lululemon seemed to have a Midas touch in the early 2000s as it began to dominate the yogawear market.

But lately the company has been known more for its questionable judgment including statements by founder Chip Wilson that some women shouldn’t wear Lululemon pants and a controversy over how sheer its new line of pants were.

It also took fire for a marketing position that seemed to shun overweight people by keeping larger sizes in an unattractive pile at the back of the store. 

Wilson has since stepped down as CEO, but he has been wooing private equity players in a bid to buy enough of the company he founded to take it private. 

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