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About sunscreen

When to use, how to apply

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with a skin cancer by the age of 70.

Sunscreen use is one of five important ways of reducing the risk of skin cancer. The most comprehensive study of cancer prevention in Australia estimated that, in 2010, more than 1700 cases of melanoma and 14,190 squamous cell carcinomas (a common non-melanoma skin cancer) were prevented by long-term sunscreen use. 

Many people apply sunscreen every day, often over large areas of their body. Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen every day on days when the UV Index is forecast to be 3 or above. Sunscreen should be incorporated into your daily morning routine on these days.

When UV levels are below 3, sun protection is not recommended, unless you work outdoors, are near reflective surfaces (like snow), or outside for extended periods.

Sunscreen needs to be applied 20 minutes before going outdoors. When applying sunscreen, you need at least one teaspoon per limb, one for the front of the body, one for the back and one for the head. A full body application for an adult should be at least 35mL or seven teaspoons.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours if you are spending time outdoors and after swimming, sweating or towel drying.

Cancer Council does not recommend the use of sunscreen in babies under six months. The main forms of sun protection for babies should always be protective clothing, hats and shade.

Sunscreen application | Cancer Council Australia

Sunscreen should not be used as the only line of defence against UV. When the UV Index is 3 or above, be sure to protect yourself in five ways by:

  • slipping on sun protective clothing
  • slopping on SPF30 or higher water resistant sunscreen
  • slapping on a broad brim hat
  • seeking shade when possible, and
  • sliding on sunglasses. 

Find out more about Cancer Council sunscreens