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You know the drill – ‘slip, slop, slap, seek and slide’. Let’s narrow in on the ‘slop’. We know it is important to slop on your sunscreen, even on those cloudy days, and by now you probably understand the role it plays in protecting your skin against the effects of the sun, particularly here in Australia.

If you have ever found yourself in the beauty aisle of your local pharmacy or supermarket, searching for the perfect sunscreen, wondering where to even begin, we are here to help. We’ve listed some key things to look out for when choosing your sun protection.

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

This tells you how much UV gets to the skin, and you should aim for an SPF of at least 30, but preferably 50. That means just 1/50th or 2% of the UV rays can reach the skin, so go high!

Broad Spectrum Protection

Noticing this term on your bottle indicates your sunscreen’s ability to filter the full UV light spectrum, or the suns damaging rays. A broad spectrum sunscreen blocks both UVA rays, the ones that cause skin aging and melanoma causing DNA damage, as well as UVB rays which are responsible for most of the sunburn and DNA damage to the skin.

Water Resistance

While no sunscreen is completely waterproof, there are formulations that can hold on for longer when swimming, exercising or just sweating through the day, improving your chances of staying sun safe.

Chemical or Physical Sunscreen

You would be right in thinking there are chemicals in all sunscreens, but this actually refers to the type of protection offered in the formulation and how they treat UV rays.

Chemical sunscreens absorb the UV rays and covert them to easily expendable heat. They tend to have a thinner formula, making them far easier to blend into the skin and providing a better option for darker skin types. These formulations are often paired with skin boosting chemicals like peptides, enzymes and vitamin C and tend to be more sweat or water resistant than the physical options. Keep in mind, these formulas could be quite irritating to sensitive skin types and do require at least 20 minutes on the skin before being effective.

Physical sunscreen on the other hand, creates a barrier that reflects UV rays off the skin. This formula is more widely recognised as ‘sunblock’ as it sits on top of the skin, rather than getting rubbed in. This means it’s far less likely to clog your pores, but it does also stay visible so you will need to find a tone to match your skin if you would like to avoid the white cast often associated with sunscreen wear. Physical sunscreens are immediately effective and are far less likely to irritate sensitive skin particularly if you look for zinc oxide instead of titanium oxide on the ingredients list.

If sensitive skin is not an issue, a combination of the two types can offer the best of both worlds. At the end of the day, finding a formula you like will mean you are far more likely to use it, so experiment with different types to suit your different needs.

Don’t forget that how much you apply is just as integral to sunscreen effectiveness. Don’t skimp on the quantity and frequency of sunscreen you apply. The general rule of thumb is to reapply every couple of hours, at least:

  • 1 teaspoon for head and neck
  • 2 teaspoons for the torso, front and back
  • 1 teaspoon per limb

Remember you cannot rely on sunscreen alone to protect you from the sun. For more ways to protect yourself from skin cancer, click here.

Please speak with your GP or specialist if you notice new or changing sunspots, moles or freckles.