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How should I protect my skin?

Protect your skin in five ways-Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

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 three 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.

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—these 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 site.

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Check the use-by date on the sunscreen and don’t use a sunscreen that is out of date.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

On days when the UV index is forecast to be three or above, incorporate sunscreen into your daily morning routine, and reapply sunscreen liberally to exposed skin 20 minutes before going outdoors. 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 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.

To find out how much sunscreen you need to apply, use Cancer Council Victoria’s sunscreen calculator.

Visit the Cancer Council shop to view our range of sunscreen and other sun protection products available for purchase.

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 between:

  • 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.

Trees and man-made structures (pergolas, buildings) provides some protection from UV radiation, but they do 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.

For more information on using shade for sun protection, visit

Slide on sunglasses

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

Cataracts are one of the most common types of eye damage in Australia, and if 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
  • either have an Eye Protection Factor (EPF) 10—these will provide almost 100 per cent UV protection
  • or have a protection category of two, three or four and/or a lens description that states “good UV protection”.  Category zero and one are fashion glasses and do not provide sufficient UV protection.

Polarised lenses reduce glare and do not necessarily provide protection from UV radiation. There is usually some sun protection information on the label. Look for the EPF or the protection category.

For more information on using sunglasses for sun protection, visit

When should I protect my skin?

Skin should be protected when the UV radiation level is 3 and above.

UV radiation is a high- energy part of the electromagnetic spectrum emitted from the sun and is responsible for causing skin damage, premature ageing and skin cancer.

UV radiation can’t be seen and, unlike infrared radiation (heat), we cannot feel it either. UV levels are not related to air temperature and high levels of UV radiation also occur on cool days. Therefore, weather should not be used to determine the need for sun protection.

UV radiation levels can be categorised using the UV Index which is divided into low (1–2), moderate (3–5), high (6–7), very high (8– 10) and extreme (11).

Once the UV Index reaches a moderate level, it is strong enough to cause damage to the skin and the higher the Index, the less time it takes for skin damage to occur. Skin should be protected in five ways (Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide) whenever the UV Index is 3 and above.

UV levels change throughout the day and reach the maximum level around midday when the sun is directly overhead. Similarly, UV radiation is strongest during the months that the sun is directly overhead.
In South Australia, this is from August to May. During this time, and UV levels across the day range from moderate to extreme so sun protection is required.

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.

Download the SunSmart app

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This webpage was last reviewed and updated in January 2021.