Tanning, Ageing and Beauty

Every time you expose your skin to the sun (UV) or a solarium, you add to your total lifetime dose of ultraviolet radiation (UVR). Over time, this damage adds up. Compare the skin on the back of your hand with the inside of your thigh and you’ll see what years of sun exposure has done to your skin. Most of the differences you see—for example, freckles, blotches, wrinkles—are the result of exposure to UV radiation. In fact, even a tan, far from protecting your skin, is a sign of skin damage! Apart from making you look older than you are, over-exposure to UV radiation increases your risk of skin cancer including melanoma.

Tip 1: Keep your skin looking young and healthy

Obviously , the best way is to limit exposure to the sun (and avoid other sources of UV radiation). A good way is to reduce the amount of time you spend in the sun in the middle of the day—this is the period when UV radiation is at its most damaging.

If you are out in the sun, take a few simple steps to protect your skin (and eyes) when UV levels reach 3 and above- strong enough to damge your unprotected skin. Use clothing and a hat—preferably one with a broad brim, of at least 7.5 cms or bucket style with a downward sloping brim and a deep crown of at least 6cm. Apply a broad spectrum, waterproof SPF 30+ or higher sunscreen (SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor) to areas that can’t be covered by clothing, including your face, neck and arms. However never rely on sunscreen alone—no sunscreen provides 100% protection from UV radiation plus evidence suggests that most people do not apply sunscreen correctly or enough of it.

Solariums, just like the sun, emit potentially dangerous UV radiation. This means that using a solarium will increase the likelihood of wrinkles, not to mention increase your risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma. Avoid solariums at all cost.

Applying sunscreen

To be effective sunscreen must be applied correctly and always combined with other forms of protection.

Apply liberally on all exposed areas of skin before you apply moisturiser or make-up and at least 15- 20 minutes before going out in the sun. This allows the sunscreen to bind to the skin for maximum effectiveness.

Most sunscreens use a moisturiser such as sorbolene as the base for the cream and are easily absorbed. Moisturisers containing sunscreen are also effectively absorbed—so look for those with sunscreens of at least SPF 30+ and broad spectrum ones (which protect against both UV A and UVB).

Sunscreen should be reapplied regularly, at least every two hours - or more frequently if it is likely to have been washed or wiped off or if you have been perspiring.

Re-applying sunscreen over make-up

Obviously, re-applying sunscreen over make-up is a little tricky. One way around this is to select a make-up base or powder with a high SPF for the times you plan to be outside for long periods. This way when you reapply your make-up you will also be reapplying your sunscreen.

And don’t forget your lips—there are plenty of good lipsticks or lip balms with high SPF ratings. Many cosmetic companies produce a range of products containing sunscreen.

Is sun protection recommended during winter in the ACT region?

Our bodies require small amounts of daily exposure to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight to make sufficient quantities of vitamin D. During the months of June and July in Canberra, the levels of ultraviolet radiation are very low – even in the middle of the day. For this reason, Cancer Council ACT does not recommend the use of hats or sunscreen during June and July. During the winter period aim to get some midday sun most days of the week, excercise and being active during this period will also assist your body with vitamin D production. 

People who may need to continue sun protection in the winter months include those people with highly sun-sensitive skin; a history of skin cancer; outdoor workers and skiers etc.

Further information and resources

This information is based on current available evidence at the time of review. For further information or advice contact Cancer Council 13 11 20.

This information can be photocopied for distribution.

Last updated July 2015.

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