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Summer sun safety

Summer sun safety

Australia is famous for its cuddly koalas, pristine beaches, and blazing hot summers. But with the sun’s harsh rays comes the need to protect yourself – especially your skin.

As the warm weather approaches, you’ll want to keep your skin looking great by staying sun safe. Below we’ve provided a few helpful tips on how to protect you and your loved ones while having fun in the sun.

Why is sun protection so important?

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. This statistic alone is enough to make you want to reach for a bottle of sunscreen – it’s no wonder why sun protection is so important for Aussies.

Because of the way the Earth orbits, Australia gets closer to the sun during the summer months resulting in an increase in solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This means Australians are exposed to up to 15 per cent more UV in comparison to Europeans. Unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause damage to skin, eyes, the immune system, and can even cause skin cancer.

What about vitamin D?

It’s a known fact that as humans, we all need a little bit of sun exposure so that our bodies can produce vitamin D to help with calcium absorption for strong, healthy bones. Without it, we’d be at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. On average, it takes about 20 minutes in the sun to get a healthy dose of vitamin D. But this doesn’t mean we don’t wear sunscreen. Some people think using sun protection can lead to a deficiency in vitamin D, and the best way to get enough is to lay out in the sun without sun protection. But this isn’t the case at all. In fact, doing so can lead to serious skin problems including skin cancer. Studies have shown people who use sunscreen daily can maintain healthy vitamin D levels, so we still need to defend our skin by using sunscreen.

How much sunscreen should I use?

Most people don’t realise that if you don’t use enough sunscreen you won’t be protected with the full SPF quantity marked on the bottle. You need at least one teaspoon per limb when you slip, slop and slap sunscreen on your body. According to the Cancer Council, a full body application for an adult should be at least 35mL – the equivalent to seven teaspoons. However, the use of sunscreen on babies less than six months old isn’t recommended. Instead, their skin should be covered with protective clothing, hats and shade.

What SPF is best?

According to the Australian Standards Test protocol and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), a broad-spectrum sunscreen must block more than 90% of UVA rays. A SPF30 sunscreen blocks 96.7% of UV rays and a SPF50 sunscreen blocks 98% of UV. So, the higher the SPF the more protection it provides you with.

How often should I apply sunscreen?

The general rule of thumb is to apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before stepping out into the sun. This is to allow the sunscreen to bind to your skin so it can do its job efficiently. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, especially if you’re spending time outdoors swimming, playing sports, sweating or drying yourself off with a towel.

When does sunscreen expire?

The TGA requires all sunscreens to have a clear expiration date printed on the bottle as well as storage instructions. Incorrect storage will taint the effectiveness of sunscreen so it’s important to keep it in a cool dark place like a bathroom cupboard. If it’s kept in temperatures higher than 30 degrees, it won’t work as well as it would if it was stored correctly.

Can I use expired sunscreen?

Typically, sunscreen is made to keep at its original strength for protecting you from the sun for up to three years. But if the sunscreen has expired or doesn’t look, smell or feel the way it did when you first purchased it, it might mean the ingredients are no longer active, giving you little to no protection against the sun. In this case, you should avoid using it and throw it away – even if the bottle is unopened. 

How can I remain sun safe?

While sunscreen helps protect against skin cancer, it also protects against sun damage, which over time can dry out your skin and cause wrinkles. So, to keep your skin looking smooth and healthy – especially as you age – take the time to protect it every day. Be sure to protect yourself in five ways by:

1. Slipping on sun protective clothing

2. Slopping on SPF30 or higher water-resistant sunscreen

3. Slapping on a broad brim hat

4. Seeking shade when possible

5. Sliding on sunglasses

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Disclaimer: Content on this site should never be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.

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