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About SPF50+ sunscreen

Sunscreen helps reduce your risk of skin cancer

In November 2012, the Therapeutic Goods Administration announced a new standard for sunscreens sold in Australia, increasing the maximum sun protection factor from SPF30+ to SPF50+.

The higher SPF offers the same level of Ultraviolet B (UVB) protection, with added Ultraviolet A (UVA) protection.

UVB is the major cause of sunburn and increased skin cancer risk, while UVA contributes to ageing of the skin, as well as higher skin cancer risk.

What's the difference between SPF30 and SPF50+?

The SPF rating indicates the amount of UVB radiation that potentially reaches the skin if the sunscreen is applied according to directions. For example, SPF30 is estimated to filter 96.7% of UVB radiation with 1/30th (3.3%) of UV reaching the skin. SPF50 is estimated to filter 98% of UVB radiation with 1/50th (2%) reaching the skin. Both can provide excellent protection if they are applied properly.

SPF50+ sunscreen still needs to be applied liberally as with any other sunscreen – see our recommendations below on how to apply it properly.

What we recommend

Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen every day on days when the UV Index is forecast to be 3 or above. Sunscreen should be part of your daily morning routine on these days.

Cancer Council recommends using any sunscreen that is labelled broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF30 or above. Remember to also check the expiry date, as products that are past their use-by date will not give proper protection.

Sunscreen should be applied 20 minutes before going outdoors. For an adult, recommended sunscreen application is 5mL (approximately one teaspoon) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35mL (approximately seven teaspoons) for a full body application. It needs to be reapplied at least every two hours, irrespective of the water resistance of the sunscreen, and should be reapplied after swimming, sport, sweating and towel drying.

Lastly, remember that sunscreen should always be used in combination with other sun protection measures, including wearing sun protective hats, protective clothing, sunglasses, and seeking shade.

What do all the terms mean?

  • SPF: The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of a sunscreen is a measure of how well it protects the skin from sunburn. Sunscreens need to be applied liberally to achieve the SPF protection claimed on the label.
  • Water resistant: Does not come off the skin during swimming or exercise, provided it is not wiped off. While a label may state a sunscreen is '4 hours water resistant', sunscreen still needs to be applied every two hours to maintain the same level of protection.
  • Broad-spectrum: Broad-spectrum sunscreens filter both UVA and UVB rays. UVB is the principal cause of sunburn, but both UVA and UVB contribute to increased skin cancer risk.
  • The '+' sign: The plus sign means 'more than'. For example, SPF50+ sunscreen must provide at least SPF60 in testing. This is because the same batch of sunscreen will test slightly differently in different laboratories with different methodology. By testing at SPF60, it removes any margin for error. 
Sunscreen Tips | Cancer Council Australia

Learn more about how to be SunSmart