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  • How should I protect my skin

    Updated November 2018.

    Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Every year, over 2,000 Australians die from this almost entirely preventable disease.

    Fortunately, being SunSmart is a simple and effective way to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.

    When UV levels reach 3 and above, it is recommended that you protect your skin in five ways for maximum protection—Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide:

    • Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible; it’s one of the best barriers between your skin and the sun.
    • Slop on a SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply regularly.
    • Slap on a hat that provides protection to your face, neck and ears. 
    • Seek shade when outdoors; staying under a tree and umbrella can reduce your overall exposure to UV radiation.
    • Slide on some sunglasses that are close fitting, wraparound and cover as much of the eye area as possible. 

    Slip on clothing

    To protect your skin from over exposure to UV radiation, wearing clothing that covers as much skin as possible is recommended. When outdoors, clothing is the best line of defence between UV radiation and your skin. 

    It is important to consider both the weave of the fabric and the style of the clothing when choosing appropriate protection. 

    Look for:

    • shirts with collars and long sleeves 
    • long trousers or skirts—these give you the most protection
    • closely woven material—the tighter the weave, the better protection from UV radiation

    Darker colours give slightly more protection than lighter colours, but can be hotter to wear during warmer weather

    Some clothes are labelled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The UPF number is a guide to how much protection the fabric provides from UV radiation. Look for a UPF 50+ for maximum protection. For more information, visit the ARPANSA clothing information webpage.

    Slop on sunscreen 

    Choosing sunscreen 

    It is important to choose a high protection sunscreen, so look for one that is labelled SPF 30 or higher and broad spectrum. If you are planning to be active or around water, choose a water resistant sunscreen.  

    Sunscreen comes in a variety of different formulas (milk, lotion, cream), so choose one that suits you best. 

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

    Applying sunscreen 

    Always apply sunscreen liberally to clean, dry skin 20 minutes before going outside. Use one teaspoonful (5 ml) for each arm, leg, front torso, back torso and your face, neck and ears. This means a full adult body application is equal to approximately seven teaspoons (35 ml) of sunscreen.

    Reapply every two hours, or more regularly if you are perspiring or after swimming or towel drying.

    No sunscreen, even if it is reapplied regularly, offers complete protection against UV radiation.  Always use sunscreen in conjunction with other forms of sun protection.

    For more information on sunscreen, visit these websites:

    Slap on a hat

    Wear a hat that provides plenty of shade to your face, neck and ears; these are common sites for skin damage, sunburn and skin cancer. 

    Choose a hat with closely woven fabric in one of the three recommended styles for good protection.

    Choose either: 

    • a broad brimmed hat with a brim width of at least 7.5 cm
    • a legionnaire style hat where the back flap meets the side of the front peak
    • a bucket hat with a deep crown that sits low on the head and has an angled brim, which is at least 6 cm wide

       

         Broad brimmed hat                           Bucket hat                      Legionnaire hat


     

    Seek shade 

    Using shade as much as possible when you are outdoors is an important way to protect your skin. 

    Shade from trees and man-made structures (pergolas, buildings) provides some protection from UV radiation, but does not totally block it out. UV radiation can still be reflected off the ground and buildings around you even under dense shade, so always use shade in combination with clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen for maximum protection from UV radiation.

    For more information about how much protection various shade structures provide, visit www.arpansa.gov.au/uvrg/rginfo_p11.cfm
     

    Slide on sunglasses

    Eyes can also be damaged by UV radiation. Damage includes degenerative changes, cataracts and pterygium. 

    Cataracts are one of the most common types of eye damage in Australia, and left untreated, can lead to blindness.

    Choose protective sunglasses that:

    • are close fitting and wrap around the eyes and don’t let light in around the frames, especially at the sides
    • meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067:2016
    • have an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) 10—these will provide almost 100 per cent UV protection, or
    • have a protection category of 2, 3 or 4.  Category 4 is not safe for driving. Category 0 and 1 lenses are fashion glasses and do not provide sufficient UV protection, even if they are tinted glasses.

    Polarised lenses reduce glare and do not necessarily provide better protection from UV radiation. There is usually sun protection information on the label. Look for the EPF or the protection category information.
    For more information, visit www.arpansa.gov.au/RadiationProtection/factsheets/is_Sunglasses.cfm

    Want to know where this information comes from? Click here.
     

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