There’s no question that sunscreen helps protect you from skin cancer. But the bigger question is, how much is enough?
How do you know if you’re putting on enough sunscreen, without wasting it? Or how often do you need to reapply, especially if you’re sweating or swimming?
The authority on this question is Cancer Council Australia.
They say you need about one teaspoon (5mL) for each body part: one teaspoon for your face (including neck and ears.) and another teaspoon for each arm, leg, body front and body back. So that’s around seven teaspoons, or 35mL all up.
Top tips to make sure the sunscreen works
- Your skin should be clean and dry. If you’ve been swimming, or have sand on your skin from the beach, wash and dry ourself first.
- Thoroughly rub the sunscreen into your skin.
- Remember the tricky spots, especially the top of your ears, your scalp and the top of your forehead, where your hat often rubs against your skin.
- Wait 20 minutes before going into the sun to allow the sunscreen to bind properly to the skin.
- Cancer Council recommends reapplying 20-30 minutes AFTER you’ve been in the sun, a bit like a second coat of paint.
- Reapply at least every two hours and directly after swimming, sport, sweating or towel drying. Sunscreens labelled as water resistant are tested to be effective for up to 40 minutes of swimming, so it’s best to reapply these too.
- Check the use-by date on your bottle of sunscreen. If it’s out of date, it won’t be as effective.
- Make sure your sunscreen is stored below 30 degrees Celsius and out of direct sunlight. Keeping your sunscreen in your car glovebox in summer will reduce its effectiveness.
And of course, try to stay out of the sun altogether between 10am and 4pm in summer if you possibly can. In all seasons, check the UV levels in your area. A good weather app will often include the UV forecast.
Remember, sunscreen is your last line of defence. No sunscreen is 100% effective against the UV radiation that causes skin cancer.
It’s not just Slip Slop Slap; it’s Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide: slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on some sunglasses.
This article was previously published in the Well at Work Newsletter