Sunscreen: Your Burning Questions Answered

Sunscreen: Your Burning Questions Answered

Summer is well on its way and we’re busting myths on our favourite sun-safe product.

By Katie Clift | 5th November 2015

Oil-free, dry touch, repelling… SPF15, SPF30, SPF50+… aerosols, roll-ons, sprays, pump bottles…

Sunscreen. There’s a lot of variety lining our supermarket shelves. So how do we know what product is right for us, let alone how and when to apply it to get the best protection?

We’re out to set the record straight about this season’s essential. Here are our top six stats to help you get past the glare on sunscreen.


In Brisbane alone, around 50 percent of adults report getting sunburned each year.

Sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes, even on cold and overcast days. Queenslanders often get caught out unexpectedly at sports games, gardening at home, or over the barbecue, particularly when shade is inadequate.

It’s vital to get in the habit of checking the UV Index level on a daily basis, rather than relying on temperature or the weather forecast. When the UV Index is three or above (which happens on most days of the year here in Queensland), sun protection is required.

2. SPF30 OR SPF50+?

Despite the bigger number on the bottle, SPF50+ only offers marginally better UVB protection compared with SPF30+. SPF50+ filters out 98 percent of UVB radiation compared to 96.7 percent when using SPF 30+ sunscreen. Cancer Council Queensland recommends the use of sunscreens that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant and SPF30+ or above.


When applying sunscreen, Cancer Council recommends Queenslanders use one teaspoon of sunscreen per limb, front and back of the torso, and half a teaspoon on their face and neck. It’s imperative to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after sweating, swimming, or towelling dry. We recommend reapplying frequently, as research shows Queenslanders often don’t apply sunscreen correctly at the first application.


While you’re lathering up, also remember to seek and slide. One method of sun protection in isolation is never enough to keep you fully protected from the sun. It’s crucial to seek shade, slide on wrap-around sunglasses, and wear a broad-brimmed hat and sun-protective clothing along with lathering on the sunscreen.


We’ve got apps to help us manage our time, fitness and priorities. Smartphones are fast becoming the new weapon in the fight against skin cancer too.

The Cancer Council’s new SunSmart app allows users to track UV levels in real-time wherever they are in the country, includes advice on applying sunscreen and sets the record straight on vitamin D myths too! The SunSmart app is available at the app store for free,  or online.


Sunscreen contains chemicals to protect against UV radiation, as well as preservatives, moisturisers and fragrance.

There are two types of chemicals in sunscreen: chemical filters that absorb UV radiation before it can damage the skin, and physical filters that contain micro-fine particles which sit on the surface of the skin and act as a physical barrier.

Sunscreen can contain either chemical or physical filters and many contain both. All chemicals in sunscreen are tested and approved as safe, and there is no scientific evidence of health side effects from chemical or physical sunscreen.

Physical or chemical, or both? Take your pick! Just remember to apply it correctly, and reapply throughout the day.

That’s our quick six! Stay safe in the sun this summer and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

More information about Cancer Council Queensland and staying SunSmart is available at or 13 11 20.


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Article by Katie Clift

Brisbane born and bred, Katie Clift is Executive Manager, Media and Spokesperson at Cancer Council Queensland. Catch her weekly radio show, Live Well, Be Well on 96Five, or downloadable at!


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