When I have travelled around the world, one of the main things I notice is that the sun just seems to hit a little bit harder down under. I have spent days outside on the mediterranean and not felt the slightest bit of burn. On the flip side, I have walked from my car to my front door in an Australian summer and peeled. The sun gives us heat and light, but in the process, it sends down radiation in ultraviolet wavelengths. This tans or burns your skin in the short time, but prolonged exposure results in skin cancers. The ozone layer usually blocks the harshness of the sun, but it is thinning above Australia, so we cop this much worse than our European friends.
From a very early age, young Australians become very familiar with sun safety. Whether it be an array of public health campaigns like Slip, Slop Slap (which has since added seek and slide in a valiant attempt to preserve the alliteration) or the now infamous No hat, no play that cut short so many a-lunchtime in the late 90s.
But these campaigns exist for good reason.
- We have one of the highest rates of melanoma in the world
- Skin cancer kills over 2000 Australians every year
- By the age of 70, two thirds of Australians will have developed a skin cancer
- There are 100 skin cancer removals performed every hour
- The cost on the public health system is upwards of $70 million annually
So what are our options? Are we doomed to live indoors only, or move to the northern hemisphere? Of course not. And - as usual - the answer lies in a chemist online Australia. There are a number of things that you can do to enjoy the great outdoors without risking your health and safety.
Sunscreen is your first port of call. It not only reduces the risk of skin cancer, but it also slows the ageing process. Sunscreen has two different ingredients that make it such an effective barrier. Firstly, there is the active ingredient. The UV absorber converts the nasty sunlight from UV radiation into heat. It is almost imperceptible, although some people do report that sunscreen can make them feel a little bit uncomfortable. The other option is a UV reflector, which is usually an oxide like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide that scatters the UV away from your skin. The best options are the sunscreens that are labelled ‘broad spectrum’ as it contributes the best of both worlds.
The second ingredient is the emulsion, the carrier for the reflector and deflectors. This is the milk, foam, gel or cream. It functions to spread the good stuff across your body, and also preserves the cover against sweat or water.
I am old enough to remember the hype when SPF 30 came onto the market. People were ecstatic, and I would often ask my clients why. Cos it's… twice the… and they would trail off as they realised that they had no idea what was going on. It stands for sun protection factor. Now, we use the term sunscreen and not sunblock for a reason. It works more like a flyscreen where some things can get through while others can’t. It isn’t a solid wall. If you’re after a solid wall with regard to sun protection, it’s called a t-shirt.
If we have an SPF of 30, it means that one thirtieth of the UV will penetrate and reach your skin. That roughly equates to 96.7%. If you step up to SPF 50, you are blocking 98%. So, funnily enough, even though the step up from 30 to 50 sounds massive, it doesn’t make two and a half times the difference.
Let’s imagine that if you just lay out in the sun. If you had no protection, it might take 10 minutes for your skin to start burning. If you had SPF 30 on, you would burn 30 times slower. Instead of 10 minutes, it would take 300. SPF would take you to about 500 minutes. Now, this is the kind of thing that would only happen in the laboratory where there is perfect application, no water and no movement. When you pick up a bottle from a chemist online Australia, you need to be re-applying every two hours.
Often, the reason people get burnt is because they haven’t applied sunscreen properly. A good rule of thumb is the teaspoon principle. You should be applying:
- 1 teaspoon for the face, neck and ears
- 1 teaspoon for each arm and leg
- 2 teaspoons for your stomach and back
You should also be applying sunscreen about 20 minutes before you are going into the sun. This is because your skin is actually a series of peaks and troughs if you get close enough. And you need to allow time for the sunscreen to settle into the troughs as well as the peaks. Otherwise you will be walking into direct sunlight with your coverage not actually covering you. No one needs that.
I often recommend that my customers check out the UV index before a big day in the sun so that they can plan accordingly. The World Health Organisation created this index in 2002, with the following scale: 1-2 is low, 3-5 is moderate, 6-7 is high, 81-10 is very high and above 11 is extreme. When the rating is anywhere above 3, you need to be protecting yourself. Now this is where it gets scary. In an Australian summer, the values are regularly in excess of 13, and if you are particularly far north, you can reach up to 17. That is twice as high as peak scores in the northern hemisphere.
Did your jaw just drop? It should have. But I hope this doesn’t fill you with a nihilistic pessimism, that life is but a poor player that struts and frets a stage, and then is sunburnt into oblivion. I hope that it encourages you to be more intentional in how you protect yourself against the sun. There are so many options in a chemist online Australia.
Come and see how we can keep you safe today!