Research has shown that too much ultra-violet (UV) radiation causes sunburn, which can lead to skin damage (including skin cancer) and eye damage. Make sun protection a life-long habit, starting as young as possible, to reduce your risk.
In New Zealand, from September to April, even on cooler and/or cloudy days, UV radiation levels can be high enough to cause sunburn. Reduce your risk by using the slip, slop, slap, and wrap steps to protect your skin and eyes.
How can I be sunsmart?
Being SunSmart is about protecting skin and eyes from damaging UV radiation.
From September to April, if your outdoors:
Slip into a long-sleeved shirt and into the shade. Generally, fabrics with a tighter weave and darker colours will give you greater protection from the sun. Some clothing is sold with a UV radiation Protection Factor (UPF) rating. Clothing with a UPF of 50+ offers superior protection and could be an ideal choice for outdoor workers.
Slop on plenty of broad-spectrum (filters both UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. Apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours. Reapply more frequently if sweating or swimming.
Slap on a hat with a wide-brim or a cap with flaps. This will help reduce the risk of sunburn to your face, ears and neck. These are the most common places where we get sunburnt.
Wrap on a pair of close-fitting sunglasses. When buying sunglasses, look for the words 'good UV protection' on the label or swing tag.
Remember to always protect skin and eyes when you're in the mountains, or around reflective surfaces like snow and water, when UV levels are damaging.
No matter what brand of sunscreen you have, make sure to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF30.
- check your sunscreen's label to confirm it hasn't past its use-by date (expired).
- apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors.
- reapply your sunscreen every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating (even if your sunscreen says it’s waterproof and good for four hours).
- don’t think sunscreen means you can stay out in the sun for longer – a sunscreen's purpose is to decrease exposure to UV radiation not to increase the amount of time you spend in the sun.
- store your sunscreen according to the label's instructions.
How much sunscreen should you use?
Probably more than you think. Most people don’t use enough sunscreen, and therefore don’t get its full protection. If you're an average sized adult you need to use about seven teaspoons of sunscreen (35mls or a good cupped handful) on your body – including face, hands, neck and ears.
I can’t get sunburnt on a cloudy day.
False: You can still get sunburnt on a cloudy day. This is because UV radiation can get through light cloud cover, so unprotected skin can still be damaged.
Temperature gives me a good idea of the chances of getting sunburnt.
False: The heat from the sun is caused by infrared radiation, not ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation can still be high even on a cool day, when infrared radiation is low. Just think about how easy it is to get sunburnt on the skifields when it can be very cold.
I'm windburnt, not sunburnt.
False: Your windburn is sunburn caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The wind may make you feel cooler but UV radiation can still be high even on a windy day. Just think about why you don't get windburn if you're out in the dark on a windy night.
Sunscreen blocks out all UV radiation.
False: No sunscreen filters out all UV radiation – that’s why you need to limit your time in the sun no matter what sunscreen you’re using and cover up.
Getting badly sunburnt before the age of 20 increases my risk of getting melanoma skin cancer later on.
True: If you have a history of one or more sunburns before you turn 20, research suggests you have a much higher chance of getting melanoma skin cancer as you age.
Wearing a t-shirt in the water is as sun protective as a rash shirt.
False: A wet t-shirt may offer only half the protection it does when it is dry. If you are going to be in the water, a rash shirt and sunscreen is a good form of protection. A full body wetsuit gives better protection.