Sunburn is better prevented than treated. Sunscreens alone are not 100 per cent effective in preventing sun-related skin damage. Other essential sun protection includes lip balm with SPF, sunglasses, hats and clothing. Follow these recommended measures to avoid being sunburnt.
Avoid sun exposure in the middle of the dayThis is when UV radiation is at its most intense and damaging.
Seek out shade when you can and try to avoid being outdoors in the middle of the day (11am to 3pm during daylight savings time and 10am to 2pm at other times of the year). Remember that surfaces such as water, sand, concrete and snow reflect UV rays – you may end up with sunburn even if you have been sitting in the shade.
Cover up with sunsafe clothing. These should be made of tightly woven fabrics to offer constant sun protection and cover your neck, arms, and cover your legs to below your knees. Some clothes are available with SPF ratings.
Wear a hat. You should always wear a broad-brimmed hat that covers your face, ears and neck when in the sun. Most schools and daycare centres now insist that students wear hats when outside.
Wear sunglasses. These should meet the Australian Standard to protect your eyes from sun damage. Large close-fitting wrap-around styles offer the best protection because they reduce glare and reflected UV radiation.
Use sunscreen. Sunscreens with the widest range of UVA and UVB block are called broad-spectrum. UVB is more intense than UVA, but UVA can still burn. Pharmacists stock many brands of broad-spectrum sunscreens and Cancer Council shops have a wide range. You can choose between a physical sunscreen, a chemical sunscreen or a hybrid one – see below for the differences between them. Be careful to use enough sunscreen (follow instructions) and reapply as directed.
Wear lip balm with an SPF. Protect your lips with special lip sunscreens. This will also protect you from the sun reactivating a cold sore on the lips. It is important that you reapply the lip balm frequently, as it tends to be licked off.
UV Index Alerts. The intensity of UV radiation is indicated by the UV Index. There is a SunSmart app (available as a smartphone app or on the SunSmart website as a free widget) that gives the UV Index for different locations in Australia, as well as live UV readings for some locations and UV alerts. The app provides guidelines for when sun protection is necessary and has reminder alerts to reapply sunscreen. Australian experts recommend sun protection for levels of 3 and higher on the UV index. That means that sun protection is needed every day, all year round in most parts of Australia. So, it’s important to make applying sunscreen part of your everyday routine to adequately protect yourself from the sun.