Are You Using the Right Sunscreen?

sunscreen-facts-and tips

While I’m a big believer that sunscreen is the best anti-aging cream you can get your mitts on, such a simple product can sometimes be a bit confusing.

Is a physical or chemical sunscreen better?

What’s the difference between SPF 30+ and SPF50+?

Do I need to apply a sunscreen separately if my moisturiser offers SPF protection?

To help sort sunscreen fact from fiction, I recently caught up with Vanessa Rock, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Skin Cancer Committee.


Sunscreen Facts and Tip For Every Day of the Year


What’s the difference between physical and chemical sunscreen?

These days sunscreens come in lots of different formulas and there are two main ways that they can work. Some sunscreens physically reflect the UV radiation away from the skin, while others use chemicals absorb and deactivate UV radiation. Many sunscreens use a combination of both physical and chemical elements to provide sun protection.


Is there a big difference between SPF 30+ or SPF 50+? Which one should I use?

Cancer Council Australia recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher. It’s a common misconception that if you use SPF 50+ sunscreen you can say out in the sun for longer – that isn’t the case. In fact, SPF50+ offers only marginally better protection from ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation than SPF30+ with SPF50+ filtering out 98% of UVB radiation compared to 96.7% filtered by SPF30+.

No matter what, you should use a combination of sun protection measures when UV levels are 3 or above – including sunscreen, protective clothing, a broad brimmed hat and wearing sunglasses and seeking shade.


How do you apply sunscreen correctly and how much should I use?

The average adult should apply at least a teaspoon for each limb, front and back of the body and half a teaspoon for the face, neck and ears. It’s also really important to remember to apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before heading outdoors and to reapply every two hours or after swimming/towel drying.


Is the SPF in my moisturiser enough or do I need to apply sunscreen separately?

A cosmetic with an added SPF is a great way to incorporate sun protection into morning routine and provide yourself with a bit of protection first thing in the morning before you go about your normal day-to-day activity. However, cosmetics with a built in sunscreen are not likely to be water resistant and in many cases offer a SPF that is lower than a SPF30+.  For this reason if you are planning on actively spending time outdoors sweating or in the water, then a SPF 30 or higher, water resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen is your best option. It’s also important to remember to reapply every two hours and make sure you are applying enough to get the right protection.


I want to make sure I still get Vitamin D. Does it still get through sunscreen?

Yes. Sensible sun protection, including using sunscreen, doesn’t put you at risk of Vitamin D deficiency and it’s important to protect yourself whenever UV levels are 3 or above.

Vitamin D recommendations vary across Australia depending on your locale, time of year, as well as your individual circumstances, such as your skin type and any pre-existing health conditions. During summer, most Australians get enough Vitamin D through just a few minutes of sun exposure, so sun protection remains important. In winter, in the southern parts of Australia, where UV radiation levels are below 3 all day, most of us need about two to three hours, spread over each week, to the face, arms, hands or equivalent area. If you have any concerns about Vitamin D, speak to your doctor.


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