How You Can Protect Yourself While Still Having Fun in the Sun

Healthy Living

Dr. Michela Sorensen

Nothing says summer like a game of backyard cricket or a long afternoon on the beach. But, with one Australian diagnosed with melanoma every 30 minutes, protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays needs to be at the forefront of your mind. 

When it comes to sun safety, I think everyone knows the old adage “Slip, Slop, Slap” which was launched over forty years ago (can you believe it?!). Recently a couple of other elements, “Slide and Seek”, have also been tacked on to the slogan. Despite it being a common part of the Australian vernacular, a reminder never goes astray. So here we go: when it comes to sun protection, if you’re heading outside always slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, slide on some sunglasses and seek shade.  But, even when you follow this to the letter, sunburn can still happen.  

So, let’s look at some other things to consider when it comes to preventing sunburn.  

Firstly, make a habit of checking the UV index. UV radiation is the energy produced by the sun and is the main cause of skin cancer. The UV index is a measure of this radiation and indicates when you need sun protection. It ranges from 1 to 11+ and anything above 3 indicates you need sun protection. It is important to remember, UV index isn’t related to temperature, so it can be overcast but the UV index might still be high. It is quite easy to check these days as most weather apps on your smartphone or watch will report the UV index.  

Next, think about how you are slopping on that sunscreen – most people simply don’t use enough. You actually need quite a bit to protect yourself,  around 7 teaspoons in total: 1 teaspoon for your head and neck, 1 for each limb, 1 for the front of your body and 1 for your back. Also think about when you are applying it. It needs to be applied at least 20 minutes before you go out in the sun and reapplied at least every 2 hours, more frequently if you are swimming or sweating a lot. And don’t forget to check the SPF (you want at least 50+) and the expiry date.  

Also, SPF (sun protection factor) doesn’t just apply to sunscreen, it applies to any protective items e.g. clothing, sunglasses and beach tents. You might think you are doing the right thing covering up with a loose cotton shirt, but UV rays can penetrate this, particularly if it gets wet. If you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period, you should look for clothing and hats with an SPF rating of 50+.  The same goes when looking for a beach tent or shelter.  

Finally, you can do all the above and potentially still get burnt. So remember, even if you have just applied your 4th coating of sunscreen, if your skin feels hot, look for that shade.  

Don’t let sunburn ruin your holiday this year.  

Dr Michela Sorensen

Please note: Dr Michela's blogaura's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic, please consult your healthcare professional.

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