Summer Skin Safety – How to select and slop on the sunscreen

Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan

With Queensland in the grips of sweltering conditions and high UV levels, it’s more important than ever to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

Despite most people being aware of sunscreen’s importance, many are putting
their health at risk by thoughtlessly slopping on the product – or neglecting its use altogether.

Recent research published in the Australasian Journal of Dermatology has shown 85
percent of Australians don’t apply enough sunscreen, so Cancer Council Queensland CEO Ms Chris McMillan has shared her top five tips:

First, know your risk. Around 3700 Queenslanders are diagnosed with melanoma
each year. Skin damage can occur in as little as 10 minutes if you’re outdoors without
protection and leads to an increased risk of skin cancer later in life. Sun protection is
required when the UV Index level is three or above – in Queensland, this is all year round.

Two, know the lingo and numbers. Cancer Council Queensland recommends the use of
sunscreens that are broad-spectrum (offering both UVA and UVB protection), water-resistant
and SPF30+ or above. SPF stands for sun protection factor and the accompanying number
stands for UV radiation that passes through to your skin.

SPF50+ filters out 98% of UVB radiation compared to 96.7% blocked by SPF30+.
You can’t add numbers together. Some people mistakenly believe an SPF20 moisturiser and an SPF10 foundation used together equal SPF30 protection. Not so, you will only be protected to the level of the highest SPF product.

Three, learn how to apply it properly. Whether using SPF30 or higher, application is the
key, as most people don’t put on enough sunscreen. You should apply sunscreen liberally –
at least one teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the torso, and face (including neck and ears). This means a full body application is at least 35ml or seven teaspoons.

A uniform coverage of sunscreen at a greater thickness, applied to clean, dry skin 20 minutes before you go outside will give you the best protection. It’s also imperative to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, exercising, or towel drying.

Four, use more than one method of protection. Sunscreen isn’t a suit of armour – it
should be the last line of defence after shade, protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses.

Five, get app happy. Cancer Council’s SunSmart app allows you to track UV levels in real
time wherever you are around Australia, with advice on applying sunscreen and myth-
busting information. The SunSmart app is available in app stores for free, or online via

Sunburn and most skin cancers are preventable through taking care in the sun, so
follow these five tips and take sun safety seriously this summer.