It is very important to protect your skin during exposure to the sun, because of the risk of skin cancers. Long-term sun exposure also causes premature ageing, where the skin becomes less elastic and wrinkles develop.
Good sun care includes:
Sunscreen SPF is the ‘Sun Protection Factor’ and relates to the amount of absorption of ultraviolet rays type B (UVB). The SPF indicates theoretically how long you may stay in the sun before burning. If your ‘burn-time’ without sun protection is 10 minutes, then a Factor 15 product could allow you to stay in the sun for 150 minutes (15 min x 10) or 2 hours 30 minutes. However, you should really reapply sunscreen during this time.
The burn time differs for different skin types. However, because of the high levels of UV light in Australia, it is important that all skin types use a high protection sunscreen.
You should apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside. You should also reapply it frequently (at least every 2 hours), or more often if you are perspiring, exercising or swimming.
Children’s sunscreens should be applied more regularly (every 20 to 40 minutes) because children are more active and their sunscreen is more likely to rub off.
Remember that reflection off water, snow and sand can cause sunburn, and that you should apply sunscreen even if it is overcast, as UV rays can pass through cloud. You should also protect your lips to avoid reactivating a cold sore.
Cream-based sunscreens tend to be more resistant to removal by water than alcohol-based products. ‘Water-resistant’ products retain their sun protection for at least 40 minutes in water. However, you should be aware that oily products may prevent the evaporation of perspiration, which can increase the risk of over-heating, especially in humid conditions. People with acne should also avoid oil-based products as these could worsen such skin problems.
On children under 6 months old, it is better to use titanium dioxide-based sunscreens. Unlike some other sunscreen agents, the titanium dioxide is not absorbed into the skin.
The type of product best for you will depend on:
Many people still consider that a tanned skin looks healthy and attractive. Artificial suntan products may provide this look without the risk of prolonged exposure. Artificial suntans will not protect against exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Some artificial suntan products do contain a sunscreen but further sunscreen will need to be applied throughout the day if exposed to the sun.
Last Reviewed: 11 June 2002