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the FACTS

SUNSCREEN Sun protection and sunscreen

T

here are five easy ways to protect your skin from sun damage. Remember to:

1.

Seek shade and avoid the sun during peak UV periods

2.

Wear protective clothing

3.

Wear a broad-brimmed hat

4.

Wear sunglasses

5.

Apply sunscreen

Sunscreen should not be used as your only form of sun protection; remember the five easy ways to protect yourself.

Sunscreen is an important part of sun protection and is widely used in Australia. However, sunscreen should not be used as your only form of sun protection or as a way of extending the time you spend in the sun.

Understanding sunscreen As a pharmaceutical product, sunscreens in Australia are subject to regulation and therefore they must comply with certain standards. The ability of a sunscreen to protect skin from burning is measured using the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) and in Australia, these range from 4 to 30+. The higher this rating, the higher the protection, however the SPF should only be used as a guide. How long you take to burn will depend on your skin type and the UV Index at the time. In a lab, an SPF30 sunscreen will filter out 97% of UV radiation, but in practice, most people get much less protection because they don’t use sunscreen properly. UV radiation penetrates skin causing damage to the cells. There are different types of radiation which cause different types of damage. These are called UVA and UVB. A broad spectrum sunscreen filters out both types of UV radiation.

Cancer Institute NSW PO Box 41, Alexandria, NSW 1435 T: +61 2 8374 5600 F: +61 2 8374 5700 W: www.cancerinstitute.org.au Š Cancer Institute NSW 2007. This work is copyright. It may be reproduced freely for personal, educational or government purposes subject to the inclusion of acknowledgement of the source. It may not be reproduced for commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for purposes other than those indicated above requires written permission from the Cancer Institute NSW. SHPN: (CI) 08015. Cat No.: PF-2008-5


the FACTS

SUNSCREEN Sunscreens contain ingredients which work in two different ways. They can: 1. Reflect UV radiation away from the skin and so provide a block to the UV radiation penetrating the skin. These ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients may give the skin a milky appearance but are the least likely to cause problems in people with sensitive skin. 2. Absorb UV radiation and so provide a chemical barrier which prevents skin from absorbing UV radiation. These ingredients include octyl methoxycinnamate, methylbenzylidene camphor and butyl methoxycinnamate.

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, whether or not the label says to do so.

Many sunscreens contain a mixture of both types of ingredients to maximise their effectiveness. None of these chemicals has been shown to cause any long-term side effects.

Choosing and applying sunscreen Sunscreen can be bought as a cream, lotion, milk or gel and as long as it is broad spectrum and SPF30+, it will work well. Choose a sunscreen which suits your skin type and activity. Water resistant sunscreen is best if you are going to be swimming or are likely to sweat. If your skin is sensitive then it may be best to use a fragrance free sunscreen with zinc or titanium dioxide. Alcohol or gel based sunscreens are least likely to worsen acne. For sunscreen to be effective it needs to be applied 20 minutes before going out into the sun. A generous amount of sunscreen is needed however many people don’t apply enough. As a guide, about a teaspoon (5ml) is required for each arm, leg, front of body, back of body and half a teaspoon for the face. The average sized adult needs about 7 teaspoons for their whole body (35ml). Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, whether or not the label says to do so. Sunscreen is easily wiped or washed off so reapplying is important. And check the expiry date; most sunscreens will last for two-to-three years. Remember to cover up to protect your skin from damage and use sunscreen on areas of the body that will be exposed to the sun. Try not to rely on sunscreen alone, but keep a bottle handy so you don’t get caught out!

Further Information: Cancer Institute NSW www.darksideoftanning.org.au

Cancer Institute NSW PO Box 41, Alexandria, NSW 1435 T: +61 2 8374 5600 F: +61 2 8374 5700 W: www.cancerinstitute.org.au © Cancer Institute NSW 2007. This work is copyright. It may be reproduced freely for personal, educational or government purposes subject to the inclusion of acknowledgement of the source. It may not be reproduced for commercial usage or sale. Reproduction for purposes other than those indicated above requires written permission from the Cancer Institute NSW.


Sunscreen