Are you using sunscreen correctly?

Today the Australasian College of Dermatologist (ACD) has released a new position statement on sun protection, revealing that many Australians don’t apply sunscreen or use sun protection in an effective enough manner.

Sunscreen works to reduce skin cell damage from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, by reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the skin via reflection (physical sunscreen) or absorption (chemical sunscreen). Excessive UV radiation contributes to premature ageing of the skin and an increased risk of cancer.

However, the effectiveness of sunscreen depends on how well it’s applied, and many people simply don’t apply enough.

The ACD recommends applying at least 1 teaspoon (5ml) of sunscreen to each body part 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplying every 2 hours. They recommend using a water resistant sunscreen when swimming and exercising.

Sunscreen itself doesn’t give you enough attention from UV radiation, particularly if you’re outside in the middle of the day. The best way to protect your skin is to combine your protection with the updated “slip, slop, slap, seek, slide” mantra: slip on clothing, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

If you can, avoid being outside in the middle of the day as well, when the UV index is at its highest. There are plenty of apps to help you keep an eye on the UV levels to help you judge the best time to be outdoors.

The ACD statement also addresses the amount of social media attention adverse reactions to sunscreen are receiving. They state that reactions are most often due to fragrances or preservatives rather than the active ingredients.

“Sunscreens undergo extensive testing before they are approved to go on the market. Sometimes, side effects can occur, such as skin irritation or allergic reactions. These are most commonly a reaction to a chemical in the product (such as fragrances or preservatives) rather than the active sunscreen ingredient itself,” said President of the ACD, Associate Professor Chris Baker. “There is no evidence to support concerns about the safety of sunscreens, including physical ‘nano-particle’ ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.”