8 tips to make sure you’re applying sunscreen correctly
By Cancer Council NSW
Science has proven that sunscreen reduces the risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen that is at least SPF30+ (or higher), broad-spectrum and water-resistant. However, for it to effectively protect our skin, it needs to be applied correctly! So, how do you make sure you’re applying sunscreen correctly?
8 tips on how to apply sunscreen correctly:
1. Read the label on the bottle and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions
2. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen. An average adult needs to use about one teaspoon per body part, equalling around 35mL of sunscreen for a full-body application. This means one teaspoon for the face, neck, and ears; a teaspoon for each arm and leg; and a teaspoon each for the front and back of the body.
3. Apply it 20 minutes before going outside. Waiting 20 minutes, allows the sunscreen to bind to your skin.
4. Make sure to re-apply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or towel drying. Making sure you reapply regularly means you’re likely to cover any parts of the skin you may have missed. In addition, most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen in the first place, so reapplying every two hours will ensure the best protection.
5. Cancer Council recommends usage tests before applying new sunscreen. Discontinue use if irritation occurs. Reactions to sunscreen can be a result of a sensitivity or allergy to any of the many ingredients used in these products. As with all products, the use of sunscreen should cease if an unusual reaction occurs. Individuals or families experiencing reactions should seek a referral to a dermatologist to understand what may have caused the reaction and gain advice on ingredients that should be avoided in the future.
6. Before you apply sunscreen, check the expiry date to ensure it is still in date. Sunscreen should also be stored below 30°C as heat can cause the ingredients to separate and lose effectiveness.
7. Sunscreen is not recommended for use on babies under 6 months old. The main forms of sun protection for babies should always be protective clothing, hats, and shade. Sunscreen on children should be used in conjunction with, protective clothing and hats, and shade. Always test a new sunscreen on a small area of your child’s skin first for any negative reactions.
8. Cosmetics that contain sunscreen are not considered to be a therapeutic product and are therefore not regulated in Australia. They vary in how much SPF protection they provide but it can often be very little, and therefore should not be relied on to protect your skin from the sun. If you plan to wear sunscreen and moisturisers or cosmetics, it’s best to apply your sunscreen first – on dry, clean skin. This will allow the sunscreen to disperse effectively.
Most people apply far less sunscreen than is recommended by manufacturers, so it is important to follow the steps above for the best protection. Sunscreen is not a suit of armour. Even when applied properly, no sunscreen provides 100% protection against UV radiation. Remember to use all five forms of sun protection – sun-protective clothing, broad-brimmed hats, shade, and sunglasses – whenever the UV is 3 or above to ensure you protect your skin and reduce your skin cancer risk. If more people applied sunscreen correctly every day as part of their morning routine, it could make a real difference in reducing skin cancer rates in the future.