Sun exposure and vitamin D

Some exposure to the sun is healthy. Vitamin D, which is needed to develop and maintain healthy bones, is produced in the body when skin is exposed to UV radiation in sunlight. However, after treatment for melanoma it is important to limit your exposure to UV radiation and use a combination of sun protection measures whenever the UV index is 3 or above.

UV levels vary across Australia, according to the location, the season and the time of day. This means the amount of time you need to be in the sun to make enough vitamin D will vary. Short incidental sun exposure, such as walking from the office to get lunch, can be a good way to maintain vitamin D levels.

Protecting your skin from the sun

When UV levels are 3 or above, you can use this combination of measures to protect your skin:

Slip on clothing

Wear clothing that covers your shoulders, neck, arms, legs and body. Choose closely woven fabric or fabric with a high ultraviolet protection factor rating.

Slop on sunscreen

Use an SPF 30+ or higher broad spectrum sunscreen. Use a water-resistant product for sports and swimming. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20 minutes before going out and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or any activity that causes you to sweat or rub it off.

Slap on a hat

Wear a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears. Adult hats should have at least a 7.5 cm brim. Hats for children aged under 8 years should have at least a 5 cm brim, and hats for children aged 8–12 should have at least a 6 cm brim.

Avoid sun lamps and solariums

Do not use sun lamps, solariums or tanning beds (banned for commercial use), which give off UV radiation.

Seek shade

Use shade from trees, umbrellas, buildings or any type of canopy. UV radiation is reflective and bounces off surfaces, such as concrete, water, sand and snow. If you can see the sky, even if the direct sun is blocked, the shade will not completely protect you from UV.

Protect children

Protect babies and children from direct exposure to sunlight. Apply SPF 30+ or higher sunscreen to the areas of a baby’s or child’s skin that cannot be covered with clothing.

Slide on sunglasses

Protect your eyes with sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS 1067. Wrap-around styles are best. Sunglasses should be worn all year round.

UV phone app

Check sun protection times every day

Use the SunSmart UV Alert to check daily sun protection times in your local area. It is available as a free SunSmart app, online ( or, in the weather section of daily newspapers, or as a free website widget.

This information was last reviewed in January 2017
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