There’s a lot of information out there about sunscreen, so we’ve sorted the facts from the fiction to answer these six burning questions.
1. Which type of sunscreen is best?
Go for a sunscreen labelled SPF30 (or higher), broad-spectrum and water-resistant. Once you’ve found sunscreens that fit the bill, try a few and find one you like (and are more likely to use).
All sunscreens sold in Australia are tested by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to make sure they are safe and effective to use. If you’re buying outside of Australia, keep in mind that the standards for sunscreen may be different.
2. Does sunscreen expire?
Yes! Don’t just rely on that old tube in the cupboard that’s been kicking around for the last few summers. You should be able to find the expiry date on the label.
Keep in mind, if you’ve stored the sunscreen in a car glovebox or any location where the temperature has reached over 30°C, the formula may have separated and could have lost its effectiveness.
3. I put on sunscreen and I still got burnt! Why?
The problem is usually not the product itself, but how we use it.
It’s not a suit of armour – we should use sunscreen with covering clothing, a hat, shade and sunglasses for the best level of protection.
When we do apply, most of us spread our sunscreen on thinner than Vegemite on toast, trying to make our small tube last us all summer. In reality, the average adult needs at least seven teaspoons (35ml) per full body application – that’s used 20 minutes before you head outside, and reapplied every two hours after that. Remember if you’re sweating or swimming, you need to apply more regularly.
4. Can I make my own sunscreen at home?
No matter how highly skilled you are at DIY projects, when it comes to sunscreen you need to make sure you have a product that has been certified by the TGA to be safe and effective.
It might be sold alongside soaps and shampoo, but sunscreen is actually regulated as a medicine. Treat it that way.
5. Do I need different sunscreen for the kids?
Our skin is more sensitive when we’re young, which is why there are many sunscreens on the market formulated for children. These products usually contain less fragrances and preservatives (which can sometimes cause a reaction for sensitive skin), but they’re no less effective at protecting skin from UV, and are completely fine to use for the whole family. Do a patch test of any new products, and have a chat to your pharmacist or doctor for advice if a reaction occurs.
Health professionals don’t recommend applying sunscreen to babies under six months, who have even more delicate skin. Instead, keep babies out of direct sun and protect their skin with clothing, a hat and shade.
6. Does sunscreen really prevent skin cancer?
Yes! Sunscreen not only helps protect against immediate UV damage (sunburn and tanning), it also prevents skin cancer! There is now a bulk of studies that have shown the regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancers, including melanoma.
And if that’s not enough, it’s also one of the best anti-ageing products there is.