We live in a sunburnt country but when it comes to protecting ourselves from the harsh Australian sun, we are notoriously bad. Here are the facts you need to know on how to make a sunwise choice this summer.
Why do we need protection from the sun?
There are two types of UV light from the sun that can harm your skin – UVA and UVB. The UVB rays are the ones that actually cause your skin to burn but UVA rays are just as dangerous for the long term damage they can do to your skin. While UVB rays leave you with painful sunburn, UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin, suppressing your immune system, and leaving their telltale signs in the form of wrinkles, sun spots and premature aging. Add to this, that both types of UV light contribute to the development of skin cancer and you begin to understand the harsh reality of why sun protection is so important.
How does sunscreen help?
Broad spectrum sunscreen is designed to protect you and your family from both forms of UV light. The sun protection factor or SPF of a sunscreen is measured by how well a sunscreen deflects UVB rays. This is calculated by measuring how long it takes for skin to burn with the sunscreen, correctly applied, in comparison to skin that is exposed to the sun without sunscreen. However, there is currently no standard for measuring protection against UVA, although improvements are being made.
Which type of sunscreen is best for my family?
Sunscreens come in many different forms – from sprays, creams and lotions to powder, wax sticks and roll-ons – not to mention the different levels of protection they offer. This can make it overwhelming when deciding on which to select for your family.
When it comes to deciding on the form you use it is really a matter of preference. Sprays can be easier to apply to impatient children while roll-ons are great for packing into school bags.
The SPF or level of protection you select is really dependent on your skin type, your location, the amount of time you will be exposed to the sun and the activity. If you are spending the day at the beach it is recommended that you use a SPF50+ broad spectrum sunscreen that is water resistant and reapply at least every two hours.
The SPF level has recently been improved to a maximum level of SPF50+, prior to this the Australian standard was set to SPF30. The difference between the two levels can seem trivial but for a nation that applies too little and not often enough, the higher the SPF the better.
When applied correctly, SPF 30 allows 3.3% of rays to reach your skin in comparison to SPF 50+ that allows 1.67% to reach your skin. While the difference between the two might not sound like much, the more UVA and UVB rays you block from reaching your skin the less damage is being done on a daily basis – which over a lifetime certainly adds up.
Ultimately, the best sunscreen for you and your family is one that you use liberally and as directed on the label.
Other precautions you should take
It is important to remember that no sun protection product offers 100% protection from UV rays. This is why it is important to ensure that sunscreen is used in conjunction with other means of protection. A combination of clothing, sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and shade is the best way to protect your family from sun damage all year round.
Sponsored by Banana Boat