Protect your skin in five ways

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Australia affecting 2 in 3 people in their lifetime and is most common among young Australians.
Protect your skin in five ways

How well are you protecting your skin? Your skin requires protection whenever the UV index is 3 or above.

When should I protect my skin from UV?

Protect your skin every day, especially in the middle part of the day when UV is highest.

Remember: Even if you can’t see UV radiation, the danger is real - even on cool and cloudy days.  

At just 1mm deep, skin cancers can enter your blood stream and spread to other parts of your body, putting your life in danger.

The good news? Being prepared today can mean avoiding skin cancer tomorrow.

The five easy ways to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation are:


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1. Slip on protective clothing that covers your arms, legs and shoulders. 

2. Slop on SPF50+ sunscreen 20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every 2 hours. 

3. Slap on a wide-brim hat that covers your face, ears and neck. 

4. Seek shade throughout the day. 

5. Slide on sunglasses that meet Australian Standards.





Everyone is unique, so protect your skin in ways that work for you.


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How can I enjoy the sun and spend time outdoors safely?

Wear sun protective clothing


Wear sun protective clothing


Wearing sun protective clothing is one of the best ways to save your skin from the damaging effects of UV radiation. Clothing provides a barrier between your skin and UV and – unlike sunscreen – does not wipe or wash off.

Here are three things to remember when choosing clothing to wear outdoors.

1. Always cover-up

  • Choose clothing that covers as much skin as possible, especially your shoulders, arms and legs.
  • Wear shirts with collars or high necks, and sleeves. 
  • Pick trousers or longer shorts and skirts that come to below the knees.

2. Loose and dense protects best

  • The best forms of sun-protective clothing are loose fitting, closely woven fabrics that cast a dense shadow when held up to the light. Look for clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating on the tag. Clothing with a UPF of 50 or more provides the best protection. Learn more about UPF and sun safe clothing.

  • You reduce your sun protection if you wear clothing that is tight fitting or stretched across your skin. Choose clothing that has a loose-fitting form for ultimate protection. Rash vests shouldn’t be too tight.

  • Synthetics or mixed fabrics often have tighter weave than natural fabrics. However, some fabrics such as cotton and linen can also have a tight weave, and are much more lightweight and cooler to wear.

3. The darker the colours, the better

  • Dark colours absorb UV rays, and prevent them from reaching your skin better than white and light colours. 

  • Choose colours like black, navy and dark reds and greens as an extra measure to keep you sun protected.

     

Apply sunscreen


Apply sunscreen


85% of Australians do not apply enough sunscreen.1

As a guide, use one teaspoon (5ml) of at least SPF 30 or SPF 50+ broad spectrum sunscreen for:

  • each arm and leg
  • your face and neck
  • the front of your body
  • the back of your body.

You should use at least seven teaspoons in total.

Generously apply it 20 minutes before you head outdoors and remember to re-apply every two hours. Water resistant sunscreens are effective for only 40 minutes of swimming, so make sure you reapply frequently when you are in and out of the water. Learn more about the SPF of sunscreen.

 

Wear a broad-brimmed hat


Put on a broad-brimmed hat


Wearing a broad brimmed hat is an essential way to protect your skin from the damaging effects of UV.

A hat with a brim of at least 7cm will protect not only the top of your head but also your neck, ears and face. These are parts of the body where skin cancer often occurs. Helmets should have a broad brim and neck flap added when working outside.

Here is a quick guide to select the best hat option for the ultimate UV protection:

✔   Choose a wide-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire-style hat with at least a 7cm brim. The brim should provide shade for the whole face, neck and ears.

✔   Make sure straw or raffia hats are finely woven and do not allow tiny holes of sunlight to pass through.

✘  Avoid light-coloured hat brims that reflect sunlight back onto the face.

✘   Avoid baseball caps as they do not protect the ears, cheeks or neck. If you are exercising vigorously and a broad-brim hat is not practical, then a baseball hat is better than no hat at all.

Use shade


Use shade


UV radiation is strongest in the four-hour period around noon: 10am to 2pm or, during daylight savings: 11am to 3pm. The best thing you can do for your skin is to avoid the sun during this period and seek shade. The key is to plan your day.

Here are some tips to help you plan your day and stay protected: 

✔   Schedule outdoor exercise and, if possible, outdoor work before 10am or after 3pm when UV radiation is lowest.

✔   If you work outdoors, where possible, set up shade structures or find tree shade to be protected.

✔   Pick a nice shady spot under trees when spending a day in the park with family or friends.

✔   Invest in a beach umbrella or tent for days spent on the beach.

✔   Make it a rule to spend time at the beach in the morning or afternoon. Head back indoors during high to extreme UV time to catch some much-needed shade.

Wear sunglasses


Wear sunglasses


Harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation can damage your eyes, as well as your skin. That is why choosing the right sunglasses is the most effective way to protect your eyes from UV radiation.

The best sunglasses to protect your eyes meet the Australian Standard AS 1067 and wrap around the sides of the face. Sunglasses do not have to be expensive to be effective, but cheaper fashion sunglasses do not always provide good sun protection.

Ask yourself these questions when choosing which sunglasses to wear or purchase for maximum sun protection:

  • Do the sunglasses meet the Australian Standard AS 1067?
    The Standard has five categories of sun protection, ranging from 0 (very low sun-glare protection, some UV protection) to 4 (very high sun-glare reduction, good UV protection).
  • Are the sunglasses wrap-around, close-fitting and have large lenses?
    This style of sunglasses helps to reduce reflected UV radiation and glare that can pass around the edge of sunglasses into your eyes.
  • Are the sunglasses labelled ‘category 2’ or higher on the swing tag?
    Sunglasses labelled a ‘category 2’ or higher absorb 95% of UV radiation.
  • What is the Eye Protection Factor (EPF) of the sunglasses?
    Some sunglasses are marked with an EPF. An EPF of 9 or 10 provide excellent protection, blocking almost all UV radiation.

 

REFERENCES

  1. National Sun Protection Survey, 2017. Cancer Council Victoria.