Even your favourite LifeJacket product, applied incorrectly, can leave areas of your skin unprotected and exposed to the sun's damaging UV rays. Let's not forget that five or more sunburns in a lifetime can double your risk of melanoma. But regardless of your age or what you did in the past, it's never too late to use sunscreen properly (and daily).
So, what does best practice look like when it comes to applying sunscreen? In today's journal, we'll give you five hard and fast rules to help you avoid the burn and unnecessary damage.
1. Time it right
If you're going to be outside for a long period of time, apply sunscreen to any exposed skin at least 20 minutes before you go outside. Think of sunscreen like wet paint on a piece of paper. It needs to spread evenly and dry properly to be fully effective once you head outside and put it to work. Imagine the paint is still wet and gets brushed up against by clothing, a towel or water. It will come off and won't cover the paper fully. Regardless of which type of sunscreen you're using, this is an important rule and one that's easy to forget. Sunscreen does protect your skin straight out of the tube (a common myth) but ideally, you want to head outside with an evenly distributed and dry layer of sunscreen on your skin for maximum protection.
2. Use the correct dose
Hands down, this is the most common mistake people make.
To achieve the stated SPF on any sunscreen, you must use the correct dosage. Products are tested and graded assuming you use the correct amount. Use less and you’re reducing the dosage. Just like pills when you have a headache. Except in this case, you’re lowering the SPF by lowering the dose.
We often hear people complaining they burnt while wearing sunscreen. And, so often, it's because they didn't use enough. The correct dose is one teaspoon (5ml) of sunscreen per body part regardless of which brand you're using. If the body is made up of two legs, two arms, a head, chest and back, that’s seven body parts.
If you're just covering your face in the morning with an SPF moisturiser, a good rule of thumb is two fingers worth.
3. Layer it on
The goal is to get even and total sunscreen coverage on all exposed skin. Don't over rub. Just gently swipe across your skin and let the product dry on our skin. Make sure not to miss any commonly missed spots for instance eyelids, lips and the back of the neck. Randomly burnt areas of skin don't look cool and it isn't healthy.
Finally, if you're swimming, sweating or towelling, re-apply every two hours. There's no such thing as an all day sunscreen. In fact, that's a banned claim in Australia.
4. The higher the SPF, the longer the protection
SPF is a measure of how long the sunscreen protects you against UVB light ONLY. Without any sunscreen, your skin would show signs of burning in approximately 10 minutes, depending on your skin type. You take that figure and multiply it by the SPF.
So, SPF 30 will protect you for 10 x 30 = 300 minutes.
Decide what you're doing, for how long and how strong the sun is when making a decision on the SPF. As far as we're concerned, SPF 30 is the minimum all year round but to be safe, SPF 50+ just makes sense.
5. Best before...
After incorrect dose, this could be the most commonly committed sunscreen sin.
Sunscreens lose their effectiveness within 12 months of being opened. Some ingredients become inactive and ineffective beyond the 12 month period. How many times have you reached into the back of the cupboard and grabbed a sunscreen from two or three summers ago? Just don't do it. For relatively small money, get a new, fresh batch and avoid immeasurable risks.