Australia is one of the sunniest countries in the world, and we love to take advantage of that, especially coming into summer when the sun, the beach, and barbecues all go hand-in-hand.
But as you might have noticed, the sun here is pretty strong, and if you’re not careful you’re going to get burnt. In fact, Australia is known for having one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
Don’t worry – it’s not all doom and gloom. Australians are also really good at staying safe from the sun—we call it being sun smart—so we’ve pulled together a few tips for you, so you can enjoy your holidays, and stay sun smart this summer.
So what’s with the sun?
As well as being one of the sunniest countries, Australia also has one of the highest ultraviolet radiation ratings (UV, for short) in the world. This is partly due to depletion of the ozone layer in the stratosphere, which acts as the earth’s natural sunscreen and usually filters harmful UV rays. As the ozone layer is thinner over Australia, this means more UV radiation gets through.
It’s these UV rays, not the sun’s heat, that cause sunburn and skin damage. This is why you may have found yourself burning more easily since being in Australia.
And not just after a day at the beach, either. It’s important to remember that just because it’s not a hot, sunny day, it doesn’t mean you won’t get burnt. You can still get burnt on a cloudy day, and in fact, clouds can actually magnify the overall UV radiation.
How do I stay sun safe?
Cancer Council Australia has come up with a helpful rhyme to make sure we all remember how to stay safe in the sun. It’s something that’s advertised on TV, on billboards, on bus stops, and is drilled into Australians practically from birth. You can read about its history here, but the rhyme goes:
“Slip, slop, slap, seek, slide.”
It’s as simple as that.
Slip on a shirt (long-sleeved, preferably), some pants, or any type of clothing, to help better protect yourself. Try and cover as much of your skin as possible. Cancer Council Australia has a great range of sun-protective clothing, specially-made with a high UV protection factor, and you can find them in most department stores, chemists, and other retail outlets around Australia.
Slop on some sunscreen. SunSmart recommends using SPF30 sunscreen or higher, but it never hurts to get the highest you can find. SPF30 filters out just over 96% of UV radiation, and SPF50 filters out 98%. When using sunscreen, always remember to put it on 20 minutes before heading outside, and reapply it every two hours.
Slap on a hat. It’s best to wear a wide-brimmed one, so you’re covered from every angle—a baseball cap might keep the sun from your eyes, but it doesn’t protect your neck, ears, or face.
Seek shade, the cheapest and easiest form of sun protection you can find. Sit under a tree, stay under a veranda, or use an umbrella when you’re outside. Be aware though that shade doesn’t provide 100% UV protection, and you can still get burnt from light reflecting off nearby surfaces.
Slide on some sunglasses. Have you ever had sore, irritated eyes after being out in the sun for a while? That’s the UV rays doing their work. Get yourself some close-fitting, wraparound sunglasses for the best eye protection, and check to make sure it says ‘UV Protection’ on the label.
What else can I do?
Cancer Council Australia has recently released their new SunSmart app, a handy little app to help you protect your skin from UV rays and let you enjoy the sun in the safest ways possible.
It lets you know what times of the day you’ll need sun protection, gives you a weather forecast so you can see UV levels for the next few days, lets you set reminders so you won’t forget to be sun smart, and even gives you a sunscreen calculator, so you know how much sunscreen you’ll need.
Best of all, it’s available for free for both Android and Apple, so get on it—it’s one more step in Australia’s goal of being sun safe.
For more information, check it out here.
Remember, the sun isn’t the enemy, you just need to be extra cautious as it has the potential to be very harmful. So, if you’re planning on being out in the sun this summer, make the most of it, and don’t forget to be sun smart and slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide.
Read more: How long sunscreen lasts and other sunscreen facts.