Are you using sunscreen correctly?
Are you using sunscreen correctly? Wavebreakmedia Ltd

Are you using sunscreen correctly?

SUNSCREEN - it's a daily essential for summer in Australia.

Unfortunately, a wide range of choices and confusing labels can make a walk down the sunscreen aisle dizzying.

Recent media attention has also raised concerns about how to apply and store sunscreen to ensure the safety and well-being of consumers.

Rest assured, the health and sun safety of all Australians is Cancer Council's highest priority and they would like to set the record straight.

The organisation has recently released a report about the correct use of sunscreen, and they say the most important factor is knowing the risks.

"More than 11,000 Australians are diagnosed with melanoma each year and hundreds of thousands of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated," Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift said.

"Sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes, even on cold and overcast days when the UV is high. Sun protection is required when the UV Index level is three or above in Australia."

Ms Clift said the second rule was to 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," she said.

"SPF stands for sun protection factor and the accompanying number stands for the theoretical amount of time you can stay in the sun with sunscreen, as opposed to without."

"A sunscreen is categorised with an SPF based on stringent laboratory testing. SPF50+ filters out 98% of UVB radiation compared to 96.7%when using SPF 30+ sunscreen."

"Also - 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."


Cape Town, South Africa
Stay sun smart, use sunscreen. Wavebreakmedia Ltd

The third rule, learn how to apply sunscreen properly.

Whether using SPF30 or higher, Ms Clift said application is key.

"Most people don't put on enough sunscreen, resulting in coverage equivalent to only 50 or 80% of the product's potential protection factor," she said.

"You should apply sunscreen liberally - at least one teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the torso, and face (including neck and ears)."

"A uniform coverage of sunscreen at a greater thickness, applied to clean, dry skin at least 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."

For the best protection while out in the sun, Ms Clift said using more than one method was the way to go.

"Sunscreen, although a proven method to prevent skin cancer, shouldn't be used as the first and last defence against the sun," she said.

"Don't forget the other "S"s - Slip on a shirt, Slap on a hat, Seek some shade and Slide on your sunnies."

To find out more information, download Cancer Council's SunSmart app which allows you to track UV levels in real time wherever you are around Australia.

The SunSmart app is available in app stores for free, or online via