Sun safety tips

  • Broad-spectrum, high sun-protection factor sunscreen (SPF 30+) and lip balm are essential items for protection from the harmful effects of the sun. But remember, no sunscreen can block out all of the sun's rays, so use it in conjunction with protective clothing, a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses. You should also keep to the shade and stay out of the sun in the middle of the day.
  • Apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outside, and reapply at least every 2 hours. If you are swimming or exercising you should choose a water-resistant sunscreen, and reapply it more often, as sunscreen is removed during these activities.
  • Be careful to use enough sunscreen — an average-sized adult needs about half a teaspoon for the face, ears and neck, and at least one teaspoon for each arm and leg, as well as both the back and front of the body.
  • Sunscreen should not be used as a way of extending your time in the sun for sunbathing — this can increase your risk of melanoma-type skin cancer.
  • Wear sunglasses that filter out UVA and UVB rays; large, close-fitting wrap-around styles offer the best protection because they reduce glare and reflected UV radiation.
  • Wear loose, lightweight clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Tightly-woven fabrics offer the best protection from the sun — as a general rule, the less light that passes through the fabric when held up to the sun, the better the protection. Covering your arms, trunk and legs is just as important as covering your face and neck.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. You should try to avoid being outdoors between 11am and 3pm during daylight savings time, and between 10am and 2pm during the rest of the year.
  • Remember that surfaces such as water, sand and concrete reflect ultra-violet rays — you may end up with sunburn even if you are seated in the shade!
  • Do not expose babies younger than 6 months of age to direct sunlight as their skin is very sensitive and easily damaged.
  • Take extra steps to ensure your children are protected from the sun, as their skin is very susceptible to damage. Skin cancer is related not only to total lifetime sun exposure, but also to a history of sunburn, especially during childhood and adolescence.
  • Some medicines may increase your sensitivity to sunlight — check with your doctor or pharmacist.
  • Exposure to UV radiation not only causes sunburn and increases your risk of developing skin cancer, but it can also prematurely age your skin. So if you stay out of the sun you can lessen the development of wrinkles and other signs of ageing!
Last Reviewed: 7 November 2012
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References

1. Prevention of solar damage (revised February 2009). In: eTG complete. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2012 Jul. http://online.tg.org.au/complete/ (accessed Nov 2012).
2. Cancer Council Australia. Be sun smart (updated 9 Feb 2012). http://www.cancer.org.au/preventing-cancer/reduce-your-risk/be-sunsmart.html (accessed Nov 2012).
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