The sun protection mistakes everyone’s making
Take our quiz to make sure you’re tanning safely.
1) You’re heading outside to top up your tan – how long before leaving the house should you put on your SPF?
A) Five minutes
B) 20 minutes
C) 1 hour
Sunscreen is like paint in the sense that the ingredients need to be evenly distributed for a proper coverage. It needs to “dry down” and form a film. Until this happens you aren’t getting the protection on the label. This usually takes 15-20 minutes, so B is the right answer here. If you get dressed, apply makeup, sweat or move around too much while the sunscreen is drying, it will wipe off (like wet paint) and you’ll end up with uneven coverage that won’t protect you.
2. How much more effective is SPF 30 than SPF 15?
A) Twice as effective as SPF 15
B) 30 times as effective as SPF 15
C) 4 per cent more effective than SPF
SPF 30 is not twice as effective as 15. Instead, SPF 15 blocks 93 per cent of the sun’s rays, while SPF 30 blocks 97 per cent of the sun’s rays. Yep, the answer’s C – there’s just a 4 per cent difference between the two of them. Although this only seems like a small difference, these extra percentages can have a significant impact on premature ageing and risk of skin cancer.
3. How much sunscreen does an adult need to protect their body?
A) 10 teaspoons
B) 6 teaspoons
C) None in cloudy weather
Only 30 per cent of women and 14 per cent of men say they wear sunscreen. And when they do, they use half what they need. Even when researchers gave away free sunscreen at a major outdoor event they found people didn’t use enough, with only half of them applying it to their upper arms and 42 per cent putting it on their face.
You need two milligrams of sunscreen per square cm of skin. This means about one teaspoon for the face and neck, six teaspoons for the body (so answer B is right) and three to four teaspoons for a child. Many people also mistakenly think they don’t need sunscreen on cloudy days, but up to about 80 per cent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can reach the skin in cloudy weather.
4) What’s the shelf life of sunscreen?
A) 6 months
B) It doesn’t have one
C) 3 years
It’s C! Sunscreen will keep its original strength for up to three years, so you can use leftover sunscreen from one year to the next. Some sunscreens include an expiration date — make sure you don’t use it after then, and throw away sunscreen that has any changes in consistency or colour. If you’re using sunscreen generously and frequently, as you should be, a bottle really shouldn’t last long.
5) What areas do people most commonly forget to protect with sunscreen?
A) Scalp, ears and lips
B) Neck, palms of hands and tops and bottoms of feet
C) All of the above
Yes, you knew we were going to say this, but it’s C – ALL of the above. The scalp is where one of the most deadly melanoma skin cancers can occur. The lips lack in melanin, which means they have very little natural sun protection. Ears and necks are often overlooked in any skincare routine, and the residue of sunscreen on your palms simply from rubbing it in elsewhere is not enough to protect them from age spots and the lines of sun damage.
Even heels and soles can become badly burned (melanomas have been known to grow there). Tell yourself to start your sun protection regime at the top of your head, and finish with the bottom of your feet – a bit like the suncare of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes!
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