Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. And if you think it won’t happen to you, think again. According to the Cancer Council, two in three Aussies will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. That’s a sobering thought. And if it’s not the motivation you need to take sun safety seriously, then we don’t know what is!
Reducing your chances of getting skin cancer is not rocket science – you need good sunscreen, a hat, and a bit of common sense that tells you staying out of the sun between the hours of 10am and 2pm is generally a good idea.
Now, we can’t make you stay indoors, and we can’t give you fashion advice, but we can tell you the sunscreen facts!
What is UV danger?
When you’re out in the sun, you’re exposed to two forms of UV radiation: UVA and UVB.
UVA penetrates deeply into the skin and is responsible for tanning – it’s what’s used in tanning bed lights. It also causes skin ageing, wrinkles and some skin cancers. UVA is present at fairly consistent levels during daylight hours all year round.
UVB radiation causes skin reddening and sunburn and is the major cause of skin cancer. It also contributes to tanning and skin ageing. Unlike UVA, UVB levels vary according to altitude, latitude, time of day and time of year.
A broad-spectrum sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreens over SPF4 are required to be broad spectrum.
What to look for in sunscreen
Use SPF 50+ sunscreen for maximum benefit.
If you’re going swimming, look for a product that says it’s water resistant. And don’t be misled by labels that say “4 hours water resistance”, for example – it may well stay on your body for this amount of time, but should be reapplied more frequently for maximum benefit: after swimming or exercise, and otherwise at least every two hours.
Products for children and people with sensitive skin
Sunscreens should only be used on small areas of a baby’s skin, and only if there is no other protection available such as clothing and shade.
Top tips for using sunscreen
- Put it on clean, dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before you go out in the sun to allow it time to interact with your skin.
- Cover all parts of the body not protected by clothing.
- Apply it evenly, and don’t rub it in excessively – most sunscreens will absorb into the outer layer of skin and don’t need to be rubbed in vigorously.
- Reapply at least once every two hours and after swimming or exercise.
- Think beyond the beach and pool – use sunscreen whenever you go outdoors for a significant amount of time.
- Store your sunscreen at a temperature of less than 30°C. If you leave it in the glove box of your car or in the sun, it may lose its effectiveness.
- Don’t use sunscreens that have passed their expiry date as they may have lost their effectiveness.