How to use sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun's rays

Skin cancer is a huge problem in Australia, with organisations such as Cancer Council recommending sunscreen as a vital protection against the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Here's a quick guide to applying sunscreen.

Check the forecast

If the UV forecast is 3 or above, you are at risk from the sun's rays and should always use sunscreen. If it's below 3, there is no need to apply it unless you feel you are in particular danger  — such as if you are working outside near reflective surfaces that could magnify the sun's rays.

Apply it in good time

You will need to apply your sunscreen around twenty minutes before you go outside. This is because it takes the sunscreen a short time to form an even barrier on your skin; some of the product needs to evaporate in order to leave the filter on your skin. If you don't give it time, you may be exposed to the sun's rays without realising it.

Use the right amount

A good guideline is to use a teaspoon per body part - that's one for each limb, your face and neck, your back, and your front. Using too much will not give you any greater protection, but using too little could leave you at risk of melanoma.

Reapply every two hours

In the past, sunscreens broke down over an hour or two and had to be reapplied. Nowadays, they have been improved so that this doesn't happen, but the advice is the same. Reapplying your sunscreen ensures that any areas you missed the first time are properly covered. You should also reapply if you have taken part in any vigorous activity, particularly if you have been swimming or have vigorously rubbed yourself dry with a towel, as this could remove your protection.

Use other methods

Don't rely solely on sunscreen to keep you out of danger. Try as much as possible to stay in the shade, and wear clothing that covers your skin as well as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Wearing sunscreen is a vital part of avoiding skin cancer from the sun's ultraviolet rays, but only when used as part of a whole system of UV-avoidance.

Get into good habits with the sun's rays, and make sure that one of those habits is the correct use of sunscreen. You should then be able to enjoy the sun without running the risk of skin cancer.

Contact a supplier of Cancer Council sunscreen to learn more.