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7 common sunscreen mistakes

3 minute read
A mother putting sunscreen on her son's face

Someone wise once said, ‘There’s nothing in life that’s certain except death, taxes and charred skin in the midst of an Aussie summer.’

Most of us have experienced first-hand the painful burn that comes from the Australian sun and despite multiple warnings (the ‘There’s nothing healthy about a tan’ ad still scares us), it seems we’re still confused when it comes to sun protection. In fact, the Cancer Council found that nine out of 10 of us don’t know when to use sunscreen.

At nib, we’re all about prevention, so before you reach for the aloe vera and icepack this summer, read this and keep your skin in tip top condition.

Credit: Cancer Council SA

1. Not applying enough

If you thought that a single squirt of sunscreen would be enough to cover your body, you’d be wrong. The Sun Smart website explains that the average-sized adult needs a teaspoon of sunscreen for their head, each limb, for the front and the back of your body – that’s about 35ml of sunscreen for one application (which is more than a shot glass of sunscreen)!

2. Only using it when it’s sunny

It’s raining cats and dogs outside and you’re heading into the office for another nine to five; you don’t need sunscreen, right?

Wrong.

The Sun Smart website recommends wearing sunscreen every day that the UV index is higher than three, regardless of whether it’s raining, hailing or shining. The Cancer Council launched the free Sun Smart app which gives you live updates on UV levels, a sunscreen calculator and reminders to reapply.

3. You’re using an old bottle

Just like milk and medication, sunscreen has an expiry date and if you’re using an expired bottle, you could be wasting your time. Not only can sunscreen become less effective over time, but once a bottle is open, it’s more likely to become contaminated with germs.

Two men on a farm with cattle.

4. You’re storing it incorrectly

You read that right; sunscreen should be stored at temperatures below 30°C and out of direct sunlight, which is no mean feat when you’re spending the day at the beach. Wrap your sunscreen in a towel, bury it in the sand (and cover with a towel) or store it in a freezer bag to help keep it cool on a hot day. And while keeping a bottle in the car may seem like a good idea, frequent exposure to high temps could make your sunscreen lose effectiveness completely.

5. You don’t reapply

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours if you’re spending time in the great outdoors. Plus, if you’re swimming or sweating (who doesn’t in the heat of an Aussie summer?) you should apply more regularly. If you’ve got a bub under six months, the Cancer Council doesn’t recommend using sunscreen; instead make sure your baby is sun safe by dressing them in protective clothing (including a hat) and keeping them in the shade.

6. You wait until you’re already outside

Your sunscreen takes at least 20 minutes to fully absorb into your skin, which means if you’re applying it when you’re already outside, you’re putting your skin at risk of burn. An extra little fact – you should be applying sunscreen before you don your swimming trunks, as they probably don’t contain adequate SPF to completely protect you.

7. You rely on sunscreen (and only sunscreen)

Unfortunately your sunscreen can’t block out 100% of the sun’s UV rays, so you shouldn’t rely on just sunscreen to protect you throughout the day. Grab yourself some sunnies, throw on a hat and wear a long-sleeved shirt; they don’t say slip, slop, slap, wrap for no reason.

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