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The 5 biggest sun safety myths you need to stop believing

4 minute read
Man and his friends applying sunscreen on the beach

Does the thought of summer have you pre-emptively reaching for the aloe vera? Then we’re guessing you’re no stranger to sunburn. Whether you’re at the beach, by the pool or simply on a walk around the block – our hot Aussie sun can burn you in as little as 15 minutes. Depending on how closely you resemble a lobster, it can take days or even weeks to heal – and the damage can be more than skin deep.

According to the Cancer Council, approximately two in three Aussies will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70. With summer just around the corner and plenty of fun in the sun to be had, it’s time to shed some serious light on the five biggest sun safety myths.

Myth 1: You can’t get burnt on a cloudy day

You probably associate sunburnt skin with a scorching hot day, but sunburn isn’t actually caused by the sun. We can thank ultraviolet radiation (also known as UV rays) for that.

While clouds are great at blocking sunlight, they’re not so good at blocking harmful UV rays. In fact, sun damage may even be more intense on overcast days due to UV rays reflecting off the clouds. The worst sunburns tend to happen when you least expect them, so whatever the weather, make sure sun safety is front of mind and apply a layer of SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen before you step outside.

A girl with sunburn on her chest

Myth 2: If you tan easily, you don’t need sunscreen

Whether you’re fair and freckled or tanned, every skin type can be damaged by UV rays. And while some people are more susceptible than others, every skin type can develop skin cancer.

Skin cancer is less common in darker skin, but when it does occur it’s often detected at a later, more dangerous stage. Prevention and early detection is the key, so now’s the perfect time to book in a skin check.

To find a local skin specialist, check the online healthcare provider directory Whitecoat where you can search a range of providers by their location and online reviews. You can also find out whether they accept on-the-spot HICAPS payments and for some, even book appointments online.

Myth 3: You need to sunbake to get a good dose of vitamin D

While the sun’s UV rays provide the best natural source of vitamin D, you don’t have to spend hours outside to get your daily dose. A few minutes of UV exposure on your hands or arms in the early morning or late afternoon can be all you need.

Plus, the perfect source of this nutrient might actually be hiding in your kitchen. Vitamin D-rich foods include canned tuna, egg yolks, mushrooms and salmon. You can also get vitamin D from multivitamins and supplements to meet your daily requirements.

Myth 4: You should apply sunscreen as soon as you step outside

Despite popular belief, sunscreen isn’t instantly effective and won’t protect you the moment it’s applied. Most brands need at least 15 to 30 minutes to start working, so remember to apply early and re-apply often.

By the time you’re all set to head out the door, your sunscreen should already be hard at work.

Myth 5: A tube of sunscreen lasts forever

If you find yourself searching through the back of your bathroom cabinet, the boot of your car or the bottom of your gym bag for sunscreen, make sure you check the expiry date before you start lathering. Just like everything you keep in the fridge, your sunscreen doesn’t last forever.

As a general rule of thumb, most sunscreens will remain effective up to three years after being opened, but that’s only if it's stored in a cool, dry place. If you leave it somewhere hot, or in direct sunlight, its effectiveness will wear off rapidly over time.

To avoid feeling the burn this summer, it’s best to use all five sun protection measures – slip, slop, slap, seek and slide – for the best protection.

With weekends at the beach, backyard barbecues and outdoor dinners on the horizon, check out our top four tips for a nutritious (and delicious!) summer.

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