Most Australians have grown up with the 'Slip slop slap' message, but with continual developments in sunscreen, and ongoing research into skin cancer and sun damage, we can always use a refresher. Here's what you need to know about sun protection this summer.
There are two types of UV light from the sun that can harm your skin – UVA and UVB.
Both rays contribute to the development of skin cancer, but UVB is the only type that actually causes sunburn.
UVA rays penetrate deeper and also cause skin damage, including wrinkles, sun spots and premature aging. This light also impacts on your immune system, working as a suppressant.
How does sunscreen work?
Broad spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from both forms of UV light.
A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) is measured by how well it deflects UVB rays. This is calculated by measuring how long it takes for skin to burn with correctly applied sunscreen, in comparison to bare skin.
Currently there’s no standard for measuring protection against UVA.
Which sunscreen is best?
Sunscreens come in many forms, and vary greatly in relation to the levels of protection offered.
The SPF level has recently been raised to a maximum of SPF50+, up from SPF30. When applied correctly, SPF30 allows 3.3% of rays to reach your skin. In comparison, SPF 50+ allows only 1.67% to reach your skin. While the difference between the two might not sound like much, the more UVA and UVB rays you block from reaching your skin, the less damage is being done on a daily basis – which, over a lifetime, certainly adds up.
The SPF or level of protection you select is dependent on your skin type, your location, the amount of time you’ll be exposed to the sun, and the activity you’ll be doing. If you’re spending the day at the beach it’s recommended that you use a SPF50+ broad spectrum sunscreen that’s water resistant, and it’s important you reapply it at least every two hours.
Traditional lotions are creams are fine for use on you and your children, but some families prefer the newer sprays. These can be easier to apply to impatient children, and can be easier to see when applied (many come from the container in a bright colour then dry clear). Make sure to check the label, as many spray sunscreens have been designed to be sprayed on but then not rubbed into the skin.
Ultimately, the best sunscreen for you and your family is one that you use liberally and as directed on the label.
Points to keep in mind
- It’s important to remember that no sun protection product offers 100% protection from UV rays. A combination of clothing, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and shade is the best way to protect your family from sun damage all year round.
- Check and follow the ‘use by' date stated on the packaging; out of date sunscreen can offer little or no protection.
- If a child has an allergic reaction to a sunscreen, try another brand. You can also try a fragrance-free product, such as a sunscreen designed especially for toddlers, or for sensitive skin.
- Remember to apply sunscreen to clean, dry skin around 20 minutes before going into the sun.
- Experts don’t recommend using sunscreen on children younger than six months. To avoid burning at that age, it’s best to dress your baby in sunsafe clothing.
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