As parts of Australia battle through their hottest days on record, the peak bodies responsible for sun safety advice both in Australia and New Zealand have updated the policy when it comes to sunscreen use.
The policy change announced on Friday recommended that people use sunscreen daily as part of their regular morning routine. It comes after Australia’s leading researchers, medical professionals and representatives from the public health and advocacy bodies met at a national Suncreen Summit in Brisbane last year and examined the current evidence on sunscreen use.
The new recommendation is published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, with researchers claiming there are benefits to using sunscreen daily.
“Up until now, most public health organisations have recommended applying sunscreen ahead of planned outdoor activities but haven’t specifically recommended applying it every day as part of a morning routine,” lead author Rachel Neale said in a statement. “In Australia, we get a lot of incidental sun exposure from everyday activities such as walking to the bus stop or train station, or hanging out washing.”
These activities expose people to small doses of sunlight, something researchers believe causes DNA damage that leads to skin cancer and melanoma. Researchers examined all evidence surrounding sunscreen use and found that it needs to be applied daily when the maximum UV level reaches three or higher.
“For much of Australia, that means people should apply sunscreen all year round, but in areas like Tasmania and Victoria there are a few months over winter when sunscreen is not required,” Neale explained.
The move has also been welcomed by Cancer Council Australia, with the organisation agreeing that applying sunscreen daily each morning could make a big difference in reducing skin cancer rates in the future.
“Australia has one of the highest skin cancer rates in the world and research shows that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer, including the deadliest form, melanoma,” Craig Sinclair, Cancer Council Australia’s Prevention Advisor, said in a statement. “Worryingly, research from Cancer Council’s National Sun Protection Survey showed that nearly one in two Australians mistakenly believe that sunscreen can’t be used safely on a daily basis. The advice is now simple: make sunscreen part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth.”
While there is a push for sunscreen to be applied daily, it’s not the only method of sun protection people should be using. In fact, other forms of sun protection are vital for those planning to spend large amounts of time outdoors.
“The recommendation to apply sunscreen every day is to protect people against the little bits of incidental sunlight that most of us get each day, and that cause damage over time,” Stephen Shumack from the Australasian College of Dermatologists explained. “But people need to remember that sunscreen isn’t a suit of armour.”
As such, seeking shade, wearing a hat, protective clothing and sunglasses is important for outdoor activities. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours.
The study found people living in Brisbane, Perth and Darwin should be wearing sunscreen daily all year round, while people in Sydney should wear it daily every month except for June. In Canberra and Adelaide, sunscreen should be used daily every month except June and July.
It’s even more relaxed in southern states and people in Melbourne should wear sunscreen daily every month except for months between May and July, while it’s the same for Hobart except for months between May and August.