Cancer Council WA SunSmart Manager Mark Strickland chimes in on why it’s still important to apply sunscreen during winter months.
Should I wear SPF daily in winter?
It’s important to apply SPF 30 or higher sunscreen whenever you’re going to be outside for more than a few minutes and the UV Index is 3 or higher. For most of Australia, daily winter UV levels will reach 3 or higher for some time in the middle of the each day. However in southern states like Victoria and in southern places like Albany in WA, winter UV index values may not reach 3. At these times, you could safely go without sunscreen. A really great website for learning about the UV Index, including finding out what the UV is right now, is www.myuv.com.au
Is it as important to wear SPF in winter as in summer?
It is even more important to wear sunscreen in the summer because the UV index rockets up faster and stays high for more of the day. We need to protect our skin when the UV index is 3 or higher. In Perth in the middle of a summer day, the UV index will be 12 to 14 every day. A hard thing to get used to is that UV is not the same as heat, so it’s a big mistake to base your sun protection choices on the temperature for the day. This is why the SunSmart message is cover up when the UV is 3 or above – it’s got nothing to do with heat.
Are there any specific brand of SPF you would recommend?
As long as the sunscreen has an Aust L number and carries an SPF 30 or higher rating it will be very effective. These days there are lots of new formulations to try so people should experiment until they find one they like. There are some really great non greasy SPF 50 sunscreens out now which are very light but very good. Aerosol sunscreens are becoming popular too. As with all health related products, it is important to follow the directions with these.
How many times each day throughout winter should we apply SPF?
If you are outside, any sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours. More often if you are active. So once in the morning isn’t enough.
What does SPF stand for?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. The number 15, 30, 50 etc. represents the fraction of UV radiation that gets through the product. You just put 1 over the SPF number. So SPF 50 allows 1/50th of the UV light through, SPF 30 allows 1/30th of the UV through and so on. Many cosmetic products include an SPF of 15, and while better than nothing, SPF 15 is no longer regarded as protective enough for anything more than a few minutes in the sun. When choosing a dedicated sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher is our recommendation.
Other resources to check out
The UV index is a super simple tool to use. Once you have got it, you are able to look after your own sun protection needs 24/7/365 anywhere on the planet. It great! See it in action at www.myuv.com.au