UV radiation is linked to more cancers worldwide than any other carcinogen. Skin cancer accounts for 80% of all new cancer diagnosed in Australia. Therefore we can say with confidence that we must protect ourselves from the sun.
Sunburn causes 95% of melanoma according to Cancer Council Victoria. So it makes sense to protect yourself against something you know will do damage. Sunscreen is something that everyone should be wearing all day, every day and re-applying throughout the day.
So how do you stay safe?
Avoid direct sun exposure where possible. When you are outdoors and exposed to the sun, always use a sunscreen with a high SPF. UVB is responsible for most of the skin damage. We recommend always choosing a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB. When considering SPF (Sun Protection Factor) always go for the highest number possible. The SPF number is a system devised to designate topical preparations and their ability to protect the skin from UV exposure.
Most of us don’t apply enough sunscreen. Light Spray on formulas like Neutrogena Ultrasheer may be easy to apply and perfect for a child on the run, but it’s often difficult to get enough coverage and therefore the sun protection you need. Stick to a thicker spray formula like Avene’s Very High Protection SPF 50 Spray where you can see the application and ensure a better coverage. Remember to apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you head outdoors.
Another problem is not applying sunscreen frequently enough. Sunscreen needs to be re-applied generally every 2hrs, especially if you have UV sensitive condition such as melasma. It is particularly important to re-apply after swimming. Even a high SPF like 50+ in the morning will wear off throughout the day. High coverage still requires re-application.
For those that wear makeup during the day, Dr Rudd recommends the Peter Roth Thomson SPF 45 powder brush for re-applying over your make up. It’s like a mineral make up that can be brushed over your existing makeup without causing a fluid sunscreen look.
So what’s in the SPF number?
The SPF number is the length of time your skin can be exposed to UV before it becomes red and sunburnt. For example, an SPF of 15 means you can stay out 15 times longer in the sun before going red than without sunscreen. Therefore an SPF of 50+ means 50 times longer. When you break it down like that it makes sense to give yourself the highest level of protection – SPF 50+ always.
It’s also important to remember that all skin types are susceptible to skin damage including skin cancer and melanoma. Therefore no matter how light or dark the skin, sunscreen is important for everyone.
When it comes to clothing choose sensible options that cover your skin if you are in direct sun exposure and hats add an additional layer of protection for the face.
As a practicing Dermatologist with many years experience and advocate for sun safety, Dr Alice Rudd says that there is no reason to NOT wear sunscreen. We know it can reduce your risk of burning. And we know burning causes skin cancer. So you see it is pretty simple.
Stay smart this summer and keep safe. If you have noticed any changes to either your skin or moles please make sure you get them checked by a medical professional. Dr Alice Rudd and Dr Tasos Stavrakoglou are available for full body skin checks in clinic. Don’t forget your GP referral.