As ultraviolet (UV) radiation hits extreme levels across Victoria, it’s worth taking the time to consider these common sun protection myths.
Avoid them and you’ll save yourself from the perils of sunburn, premature ageing, tanning, eye damage and – most importantly – you'll reduce your risk of skin cancer.
1. You can’t get sunburnt in the shade
Actually, it’s UV radiation – not sunlight – that damages your skin. Even though we can’t see or feel them, UV rays reflect off surfaces like sand, water and even grass.
So while a leafy tree or shade sail will block some UV rays, others will bounce from those sunny areas to reach your skin.
That’s why you should always use all five sun protection measures – clothing, sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses and shade – for the best protection.
2. A tan that builds up over summer isn’t dangerous
Any tan is a sign of UV damage, even if you didn’t deliberately try to get a tan.
We call this ’incidental’ damage, because it’s usually the UV damage we get when we’re out and about running errands, taking a lunchtime stroll or doing something as simple as hanging the washing in the backyard.
All UV damage – the deliberate sun tans, incidental tans and accidental sunburns – adds up over time to increase our risk of skin cancer. That’s why you should always protect your skin when you’re outdoors during sun protection times.
3. You can’t get sunburnt on cloudy or cool days
See the myth about shade … UV radiation can be just as fierce on a day when it’s hot and sunny, as when it’s cool or cloudy. Remember – you can’t see or feel UV rays, so don’t let your senses fool you.
Instead, check the sun protection times each day via the SunSmart app so you know when UV levels will be high enough to damage your skin.
4. I used to sunbake when I was younger, so it’s too late for me
It’s never too late for skin cancer prevention. In fact, skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers because sun protection is effective at any age. Whether you are six months or 60 years, following the SunSmart steps will cut your cancer risk.
5. I don’t need sunscreen because there’s SPF in my cosmetics
Cosmetics and moisturisers with SPF are great to add to your sun protection arsenal, but as with a regular sunscreen, you still need to top up your application every two hours.
Also be aware that most cosmetics offer protection that is much lower than the recommended minimum of SPF30, and may not be broad-spectrum to filter both UVA and UVB radiation.
6. I won’t get skin cancer because I tan and don’t burn
All skin types can be damaged by UV radiation and all skin types can get skin cancer. That’s why we all need to use sun protection.
Remember, if your skin browns in the sun, it’s a sign UV rays have damaged your skin cells. A tan is a sign of skin cells in trauma – not health.
7. I need to go out in the sun without protection for vitamin D
Skin can be sunburnt in as little as 11 minutes in Victoria on a clear summer’s day, so this is not the time of year most of us struggle to make sufficient vitamin D.
A few minutes of UV exposure to your hands and arms in the early morning or late afternoon can be all you need in summer to meet your vitamin D requirements.
If you are in an at-risk group for vitamin D deficiency, speak to your doctor about supplementation. Overexposure to UV is never recommended for anyone.