Sun-safety – there’s more to it than you think

We’ve got a hat on, some sunscreen and we’re sitting under the shade of an umbrella watching the kids play in the pool, we are sun safe, aren’t we?

  • Water reflection, holey hats and shady shade can burn our skin
  • Sunscreen – at least two hourly applications needed
  • Use densely woven hats, clothing and umbrellas to protect skin from burn
  • Even in a car you can be burnt through glass.

The answer is “Well, maybe” says Dr Elke Hacker a long-time researcher of public health messaging on protecting our skin from Australia’s damaging UV rays which lead to a high prevalence of skin cancers and the deadly melanoma.

“If the hat or umbrella are of lightly woven material the UV rays can sneak in and burn,” says Dr Hacker.

“Sunburn, even slight redness, is skin damage and each time our skin is damaged it increases the risk for skin cancer.

“Always choose a hat that doesn’t have gaps or holes in the material, preferably one with an Australian sun-safety standard.

“Even a tree mightn’t be offering much shade protection if the branches are leaves are sparse.

“Wear Australian standard sunglasses and generously applied SPF 50+ sunscreen – water-resistant sunscreen is a must in the pool or ocean.

“Even in the shade – water, concrete, light tiles, even snow, all reflect UV radiation that can burn skin and eyes.”

Dr Hacker said sweating washed sunscreen away as well as drying off after a swim and people should reapply sunscreen two hourly and as soon as possible after these activities.

“A few more pointers to remember are that you can get sunburnt through glass, especially in cars with untinted windows.

“Tinted windows offer some protection but the front windscreen cannot be tinted and so it is possible to be sunburnt while driving or a passenger.

“Also, sunscreen supplies should be renewed regularly. Sunscreen degrades over time, especially in temperatures more than 30 degrees. Never leave sunscreen in the car which can heat up to more than 60 degrees.

“Make sunscreen application a daily habit. Protect your skin with a long-sleeved shirt, wear sunnies and a wide brim, tightly woven hat, and stay in the shade.”

For more, see Dr Hacker and Dr Louise Baldwin’s article on the Conversation.

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