Slop on sunscreen!
Tips for choosing and using sunscreen well
Most people apply too little sunscreen.
When using sunscreen, remember:
- no sunscreen provides full protection so never rely on sunscreen alone
- choose sunscreen that is broad spectrum and water resistant
- apply sunscreen evenly to clean, dry skin 20 minutes before going out into the sun
- re-apply all sunscreens every two hours, or more often, when sweating
- check and follow the ‘use by' date stated on the packaging
- store sunscreen below 30°C
- use a generous amount of sunscreen. The average-sized adult should
apply more than half a teaspoon of sunscreen (about 3 ml) to each arm
and the face/neck (incuding ears), and just over one teaspoon (6 ml) to
each leg, the front of the body and the back of the body. That is,
approximately 35 ml of sunscreen for one full body application.
Download Sunscreen [pdf 59K] for more information about using sunscreen to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure and damage.
Use the Sunscreen calculator to
find out how much sunscreen you need to apply to reach the level of
protection stated on the label. The calculator provides an approximate
amount of sunscreen required for one full body application based on your
size and clothing cover.
Nanoparticles and sunscreen
Nanotechnology has been used in sunscreens for many years. To
date, the Cancer Council's assessment, drawing on the best available
evidence, is that nanoparticulates used in sunscreens do not pose a
risk. However, we continue to monitor research and welcome any new
research that sheds more light on this topic.
Sunscreen formulas and their components are regulated through the
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). In early 2009, the TGA conducted
an updated review of the scientific literature in relation to the use
of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens.
The TGA review concluded that:
- The potential for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in
sunscreens to cause adverse effects depends primarily upon the ability
of the nanoparticles to reach viable skin cells; and
- To date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium
dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells;
rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of
the skin that is composed of non-viable cells.
View the TGA's report concerning the safety of sunscreens.
Cancer Council looks closely at TGA's advice, as well as our own evidence-based reviews.
Sunscreens also use 'microfine' or 'micronised' particles, which are larger than nanoparticles:
- Nanoparticles are smaller than 100 nanometres and invisible to the human eye – a nanometre is 0.000001 millimetre.
- Microfine particles are smaller than those used in conventional
white zinc sunscreens, however are larger than nanoparticles – usually
in the range of 100 to 2500 nanometres.
Council sunscreens are made to contain micro fine particles, not nanoparticles.
Sunscreen has been proven to reduce the
risk of melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer. Skin cancer claims more
than 1830 lives each year in Australia and we urge Australians
to continue to protect themselves with all five sun protection measures when ultraviolet (UV) radiation is at damaging levels. In Victoria, this is generally from September to April each year.