Your Summer Guide To Sunscreens (Part 1)

How do sunscreens work?

Sunscreen ingredients work in two ways – scattering and/or absorbing ultraviolet (UV) radiation to help stop it from reaching the skin.Some sunscreens utilise both absorbing and scattering ingredients.

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor  which is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn. It  relates to the amount of time it takes for intense UV radiation (specifically UVB) to burn skin that has been liberally applied with sunscreen compared to skin that has no application of sunscreen

For example, if it takes 10 minutes for unprotected skin to burn, then an SPF30 sunscreen correctly applied, in theory, will take 30 times longer or 300 minutes to burn.

What does broad spectrum mean?

Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays, the two types of harmful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun. UVB is the principal cause of sunburn, but both UVA and UVB contribute to increased skin cancer risk.

How should I apply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before exposure to UV in order to create the intended protective barrier. It should be applied liberally and evenly to clean and dry skin.

For adults, the recommended application is 5 ml (approximately 1 teaspoon) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35 ml (approximately 7 teaspoons) for a full body application.

How often should I apply sunscreen?

Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every two hours, irrespective of the water resistance of the sunscreen. Swimming, sport, sweating and towel drying can reduce the effectiveness of the product, so sunscreen should always be reapplied after these activities.

How do I know which sunscreen to use and when?

The SPF informs consumers of the effectiveness of the sunscreen against sunburn and helps them select a product appropriate to their skin sensitivity and exposure to the sun.If you are sweating heavily or swimming, water resistant sunscreens should be used.

What nanoparticles are used in sunscreens?

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide were the first ingredients to be used in Australian sunscreens in nanoparticle form; however, other ingredients may be used in nanoparticle form if this has been specifically evaluated and approved by the TGA.

Should I be worried about nanoparticles in sunscreens?


Nanoparticles have been present in some sunscreens since at least 1990.To date, evidence shows that the particles remain on the surface of the skin, which is composed of non-viable (dead) cells, and therefore pose no threat to human health.

Are sunscreens regulated in Australia?

Any application to register a new sunscreen ingredient must undergo a safety assessment, and all products are subject to post-market monitoring. This means that the TGA must be satisfied that the benefits of a product outweigh the risks before it can be sold legally in Australia

Can sunscreen be applied to babies?

The widespread use of sunscreen on babies under the age of six months in not generally recommended as they have very sensitive skin which may be more likely to suffer a reaction.

The Cancer Council recommends keeping babies under 12 months away from direct sunlight as much as possible when UV levels are 3 or above, as their skin is more sensitive than adults.

Ensure that babies are protected from the sun by shade, protective clothing and a hat. Some parents may choose to use sunscreen occasionally on small parts of their baby’s skin – if that is the case, parents should be careful to choose a sunscreen that is suitable for babies.

You may wish to seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. If your baby does suffer a reaction to a sunscreen, stop using the product and seek medical attention.

Is sunscreen enough?

Sunscreen should never be used as the only line of defence against sun damage. It is also important to remember that sunburn is caused by UV radiation, which is not related to temperature. Whenever the UV Index is 3 or above, be sure to:

  • Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible – this offers the best protection.
  • Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30+ (or higher) sunscreen.
  • Slap on a hat – broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade.
  • Slide on some sunglasses – make sure they meet Australian Standards.

For further detailed information please click on the links below:

    1. Sunscreens: Information for Consumers
    2. Cancer Council: Sunscreen FAQs 
    3. Factsheet: Sun Protection and Infants

As ever, if you have any queries or concerns contact your local doctor!

Until the next time….



Book Appointment



Leave a reply