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Overexposure to UV radiation can damage your skin’s DNA, which can lead to skin cancer and sunscreen is an essential part of reducing that risk. If used properly, sunscreen is safe to use and effective at reducing UV damage to the skin. Here’s how to make sure that you get the maximum protection possible.

Sunscreen works by filtering UV radiation, but it does not completely block it out, which is why it is important to protect your skin’s DNA in five ways by making sure you slip, slop, slap, seek and slide whenever you’re outside and the UV is 3 and above.

Not all sunscreens are made equal though. Here’s what to do to ensure your sunscreen is providing the best possible protection:

Choosing a sunscreen type

It is important to choose a high protection sunscreen, so look for one that is labelled SPF 30 or higher and broad spectrum.

There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. By selecting a broad spectrum sunscreen, you’ll filter out both types of UV that can cause permanent damage.

Water resistance
Make sure you choose a water resistant sunscreen product, because you never know when you might need it. Remember to reapply regularly—every two hours, or more often if you are sweating, wiping it away or are in and out of the water.

Application type
Sunscreen comes in a variety of different formulas—milk, cream, lotion, spray or roll-on. Choose one that suits your needs best, but which ever you choose, make sure you apply enough of it. This can be a concern when using spray or roll-on types. You might also like to consider a non-greasy product if you’re going to wear it on a daily basis or under makeup.

Testing your sunscreen

There have been reports of some sunscreens causing skin reactions in rare cases. Like all cosmetic and skin care products, you should always perform a small patch test on an area of skin prior to your first full application. It’s possible you may be sensitive to an ingredient that you’ve never encountered before.

Applying your sunscreen

Apply about one teaspoonful of sunscreen (5ml) to each of the seven sections of your body—left arm, right arm, left leg, right leg, face and neck (including ears), front torso (chest and stomach) and back torso—about 20 minutes before you go outside. Reapply every two hours (even if the stated water resistance is longer than two hours).

Storing your sunscreen

Check the use-by date and don’t use sunscreen that is out of date. Always store your sunscreen under 30°C.


The Bureau of Meteorology predicts UV levels with the weather forecast every day and provides us with local daily sun protection times (for example 9.30 am – 3.30 pm). The sun protection times tell us when UV is predicted to be 3 and above and therefore when sun protection is required. It is a useful tool for anyone planning outdoor activities. UV levels and sun protection times can be accessed by downloading the free SunSmart app or by adding the SunSmart widget to your website.

The app features include:

  • UV and sun protection alerts each day.
  • A sunscreen calculator, providing you with the minimum recommended sunscreen application, based on your choice of outfit. Plus, a two-hour reminder so you don’t forget to top up.
  • Four-day forecast of sun protection times and weather information.
  • Live UV levels for major cities, and forecast UV for all other locations.