Slip, slop, slap: The simple sun safety mistakes putting Aussies at risk

Jan 06, 2020
Don't let the heat get the best of you and remember to be sun safe this summer! Source: Getty.

With the mercury continuing to rise this summer, new research from the Cancer Council shows that everyday Aussies are still making simple mistakes when it comes to sun safety. The latest data comes from the National Sun Protection Survey and reflected a worrying perception of how laid-back Australians have become regarding their time in the sun and the risk of melanoma skin cancer.

The Cancer Council says that, shockingly, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime which can be linked to making common mistakes or ignoring warning signs particularly in this summer’s extreme temperatures.

Data was collected from around the country, highlighting the three worst mistakes people make in the sun including:

  • Being in the sun for too long
  • Forgetting to reapply their sunscreen
  • Thinking they need more vitamin D

Although sunscreen is a must-have when heading out into the sun, many people fall into the trap of thinking it’s a protective layer on their skin that allows them to stay outside for a bit longer. In fact, 40 per cent of those surveyed who had been sunburnt said it was because they had overstayed their welcome during peak ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels.

Those who love the outdoors should be reminded that wearing sunscreen during summer when UV levels are extreme simply isn’t enough and instead, people should be planning their activities around when the sun is at its most harmful. This could mean going out early in the morning or later in the afternoon, so long as the UV index is below three which indicates a safe level.

If you simply can’t avoid the sun during the worst hours throughout the day then ensuring you are using sufficient sunscreen is vital to maintaining healthy skin. However, there’s more to it than simply slip, slop and slapping as 27 per cent of survey respondents admitted they had gotten sunburnt because they forgot to reapply, didn’t use enough or missed a spot.

The average adult needs about a teaspoon of sunscreen per section of their body including head and neck, each limb, the front of the body and the back. This equates to about 35ml of sunscreen for an entire body.

Applying should be done 20 minutes before stepping into the sun to ensure it has completely soaked into the skin to avoid it being washed off by water or sweat, and reapplying should happen every two hours after towel drying or jumping into the water.

Don’t be fooled by an overcast day or an incidental moment in the sun like gardening or watching a sports game, as these tend to be the most underrated threat for everyday Aussies. UV rays on a cool, overcast summer day can actually be as severe as those on a warm sunny day and can even be more intense due to reflection off the clouds.

Interestingly, 16 per cent of women in survey said they adapted their sun exposure and protection levels to ensure they got more vitamin D while one in ten men said the same thing. And although you should discuss with a medical professional whether or not you need a vitamin D supplementation, the Cancer Council reminds Australians that excess sun exposure is not the way to go about it.

During the summer, everyday activities that include a few minutes of sun exposure on hands and arms in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon is enough to fulfil the daily requirement of vitamin D while also avoiding excess risk of skin cancer.

And with this summer already providing Australia with it’s hottest day ever on average, don’t forget these five steps for complete sun safety: slip on protective clothing, slop on minimum SPF30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on wrap-around sunglasses.

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