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  • Sunscreens

  • How do sunscreens work?

    There are two types of sunscreen ingredients that work in two different ways:

      1) Absorbers, which use active ingredients that absorb most of the UV, and

     2) Reflectors which reflect or scatter most of the UV away from your skin.

     Some sunscreens use both absorber and physical blocking ingredients.

  • What do SPF numbers mean?

    SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. SPF relates to the amount of time it takes for redness to appear on the skin compared to when no product is used at all. The test is done in a laboratory.

    For example, if it takes 10 minutes for unprotected skin to show redness, then an SPF30 sunscreen correctly applied, in theory, will take 30 times longer or 300 minutes to burn. However, it is hard to achieve this level of protection in real life - factors such as skin type, ultraviolet (UV) levels, swimming/drying and how much sunscreen you apply can affect the level of protection.

    That's why we always recommend applying liberally every two hours or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. It is also important to apply 20 minutes beforehand before being exposed to UV.

  • How much better are SPF 50+ sunscreens?

    Cancer Council recommends using an SPF30 or higher sunscreen. It's a common misconception that SPF50 sunscreen provides significantly better protection than SPF30, but the truth is that SPF30 sunscreens filter approximately 96.7% of UVB radiation, while SPF50+ sunscreens provide only slightly better coverage by filtering out 98% of UVB.

    The most important thing is to make sure your sunscreen is applied correctly.

    Apply a generous amount (at least 7 teaspoons) 20 minutes before heading outdoors, and reapply every two hours. Sunscreen is an important sun protection measure, but should always be used in conjunction with other sun protection measures: using shade and wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.

  • What does broad spectrum mean?

    Broad spectrum means that a sunscreen provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. A sunscreen listed as broad spectrum must have a minimum UVA protection of at least 1/3 of its SPF claim.

  • How should sunscreens be best applied?

    Apply before heading outdoors: Apply to dry, clean skin and rub in 20 minutes before heading outside.

    Apply liberally: For adults, apply at least one teaspoon (5mL) of sunscreen to each arm, leg, front of the body, back of the body and face (including the neck and ears). One full body application should be the equivalent of seven teaspoons (35mL).

    Reapply regularly: Every TWO HOURS and immediately after swimming, sweating or towel drying.

    Know your UV: Use sun protection when UV levels are 3 or above.

    Use 5 methods of sun protection: protective clothing, eyewear/sunglasses, a broad-brim hat and shade. Apply sunscreen to remaining exposed areas of skin. Avoid prolonged sun exposure and never rely on sunscreen alone, nor to extend your family’s time in the sun.

    Patch test: When using a sunscreen for the first time, test on a small section of skin first. If Irritation occurs, discontinue use.

  • What causes sunscreen reactions?


    Reactions to sunscreen can be a result of a sensitivity or allergy to any of the many ingredients used in these products. Some people may have reactions to the fragrances, preservatives, chemical absorbers or another component of the sunscreen.

    Sensitivities to sunscreen are complex, range from mild to severe, and can link to a range of co-factors, including sunlight, other allergens or medications. Some reactions occur soon after applying the sunscreen while others (e.g. allergic reactions) may occur after repeated use. Reactions can also be caused by or made more severe if sunscreen is used with some medications or other topical creams and lotions. Reactions occur in a very low proportion of the population – fewer than 1% of all users – but while uncommon, can be upsetting for those affected.

    As with all products, use of sunscreen should cease if an unusual reaction occurs. Individuals or families experiencing reactions should seek a referral to a dermatologist to understand what may have caused the reaction and gain advice on ingredients that should be avoided in the future.

  • How often should sunscreen be applied?

    Reapply every 2 hours or after swimming, sweating or towel drying.

  • Which of the sun's rays actually cause skin cancer?

    UVB is the major cause of sunburn and increased skin cancer risk, while UVA contributes to ageing of the skin, as well as higher skin cancer risk.

  • Can sunscreens be used on babies?


    Cancer Council recommends keeping babies away from direct sunlight as much as possible when UV levels are 3 or above, as their skin is more sensitive than adults’. Plan daily activities to ensure the baby is well protected from the sun and aim to minimise time outside during the middle of the day during the summer period when UV levels are at their strongest.

    When this is not possible, ensure that babies are protected from the sun by shade, protective clothing and a hat. Check the baby’s clothing, hat and shade positioning regularly to ensure he/she continues to be well protected from UV.
    The use of sunscreen on babies under six months is not generally recommended.

    Some parents may choose to use sunscreen occasionally on small parts of their baby’s skin – if that’s the case parents should be careful to choose a sunscreen that is suitable for babies - they may wish to seek the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. Sunscreens for babies usually use reflecting ingredients such as zinc oxide and avoid ingredients and preservatives that may cause reactions in young skin. It’s also important to patch test first.


  • Can you burn on a cloudy day?

    You can get sun damage on windy, cloudy and cool days. Sun damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation, not temperature. A cool or overcast day in summer can have similar UV levels to a warm, sunny day. Sun damage is possible on cloudy days, as UV radiation can penetrate some clouds, and may even be more intense due to reflection off the clouds.

    Check the daily sun protection times that show when the UV is forecast to be 3 or above.

  • What other precautions should be used, other than sunscreens?

    Sunscreen is an important sun protection measure, but should always be used in conjunction with other sun protection measures: using shade and wearing protective clothing, hats and sunglasses.

  • What are the 'Active Ingredients' listed on the back of the sunscreen tubes/labels?


    These are the ingredients used to absorb and/or reflect the harmful UVA and UVB rays generated by the sun. Some are better at absorbing UVA (eg Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane/‘Parsol’, zinc oxide), while others are better at absorbing UVB (eg Octyl Methoxycinnamate, Titanium Dioxide) and some do both (eg Tinasorb). Most sunscreens use mixtures of UVA and UVB absorbers to optimise their sun protection properties. All sunscreen ingredients used in Australia are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA).

  • What are the 'Preservatives' listed on the back of the tube/labels of sunscreens and why are they used?

    These are ingredients that are necessary to preserve the integrity of the sunscreen cream/lotion. Besides the active ingredients, sunscreens contain moisturisers, water, oils, emulsifiers and various other ingredients which help to maintain the cream emulsion and make the sunscreen pleasant and easy to apply. Without preservatives the sunscreen cream/lotion would support the growth of bacteria which could ‘spoil’ the cream/lotion and/or cause skin infections if they were to contaminate the sunscreen.

  • Why are there so many different sunscreen types?


    There are many sunscreen ingredients available that filter and/or reflect harmful UVA and UVB light generated by the sun. Some chemicals and ingredients absorb harmful rays, some reflect them and some do both. Most sunscreens contain a blend of such chemicals to optimise the SPF 30+ rating (or higher). There are other characteristics such as water resistancy, ease of application, non-greasy, non-irritating, non-whitening, etc that require special formulations with different ingredients, sunscreen actives and preservatives.

  • How much sunscreen should I apply?

    For an adult, the recommended application is 5ml (approximately 1 teaspoon full) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35ml (approximately 7 teaspoons full) for a full body application.

  • How often should I reapply sunscreen?

    Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every 2 hours. There are variables that can impact the effectiveness of sunscreen once it has been applied. Activities such as swimming, outdoor sports, perspiring, towelling or wiping the body, etc will result in diluting and/or removing sunscreen from the skin. Because sunscreen manufacturers cannot predict the circumstances under which sunscreens will be used, it is recommended that sunscreen be applied every 2 hours irrespective of the water resistance rating of the sunscreen.

  • What regulations are there for sunscreens in Australia?

    Sunscreen products are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). All sunscreens sold in Australia must meet Australian sunscreen testing standards. Testing involves applying the product to human volunteers to confirm the product meets its Sun Protection Factor and Broad Spectrum claims. If the product is water resistant, it also needs to be tested to ensure it remains effective after being immersed in water for the stated claim The TGA also undertakes its own testing.  There is only one approved testing laboratory in Australia so from time to time we have to use overseas laboratories approved by the TGA.

  • Sunglasses

  • How much protection do Cancer Council sunglasses offer?

    All Cancer Council sunglasses are fitted with category 3 polarised lenses and have an eye protection factor of 10 – the maximum factor protection. Sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat worn together can reduce UV radiation exposure to the eyes by up to 98 per cent.

  • What standards do Cancer Council sunglasses comply with?

    For ultimate comfort and protection, all Cancer Council sunglasses conform to Australian Standard AS1067:2003 and eliminate 100% of horizontally reflected glare. All Cancer Council eyewear is independently tested by accredited laboratories such as ORLAB to ensure that the highest quality UV protection is offered to our customers.

  • What are lens categories?

    Category 4: Sunglasses providing a high level of protection from UV radiation and sunglare. Must not be used when driving.

    Category 3: Sunglasses providing extra protection from UV radiation and sunglare.

    Category 2: Sunglasses for general use, providing good protection from UV radiation and sunglare.

    Category 1: Fashion spectacles, providing protection from UV radiation and limited reduction of sunglare. Not suitable for driving at night.

    Category 0: Fashion spectacles, providing some protection from UV radiation but no reduction in sunglare.

  • What are polarised lenses?

    Polarisation occurs when light bounces off a surface in a horizontal or vertical direction striking the viewer’s eyes intensely and creating glare, making it difficult and uncomfortable to see. Polarised sunglasses only allow vertically angled light to enter the wearer’s eyes, proving glare free vision even off the most highly reflective surfaces like water and snow. Glare is eliminated because the horizontal light waves cannot bypass the polarising filter. Reducing glare can ease eye strain, assist us to see under the surface of water and enrich our view by giving more contrast. All Cancer Council sunglasses have polarised lenses.

  • How do I choose the right sunglasses for my child?

    Cancer Council children’s sunglass collection offers a wide range of styles for boys and girls across the following age groups:

    INFANTS (Ages 0 – 2 years)

             Small-sized soft rubber wraparound frames to minimise peripheral UV exposure.

             Fitted with an adjustable elastic strap allowing for a comfy fit that won’t pinch baby’s delicate skin.

    TODDLERS (Ages 2 – 5 years)

             Mid-sized wraparound or wide temple frames to minimise peripheral UV exposure.

             Sunglasses in a series of classic and fashion shapes.

             Selected styles fitted with soft and durable rubber temples.

    KIDS (Ages 5 – 12 years)

             Larger-sized wraparound or wide temple frames to minimise peripheral UV exposure sunglasses.

             Series of classic and fashion shapes and colours.

  • Hats

  • What style of hat offers the best sun protection?

    A broad-brimmed, legionnaire or bucket style hat provides good protection for the face, nose, neck and ears, which are common sites for skin cancers. Caps and visors do not provide enough protection. Choose a hat made with closely woven fabric – if you can see through it, UV radiation will get through. Hats may not protect you from reflected UV radiation, so also wear sunglasses and sunscreen, long sleeve clothing, sunscreen and shade, where possible.

    All sun protective hats sold by Cancer Council have been independently tested and have a maximum rating of UPF50+.

  • Is there a sizing chart for Cancer Council hats?

     Please click here for breakdown of different hat sizes.

  • Shades

  • How do you fold and dismantle the Cancer Council beach cabana?

    Remove the tent pegs and empty the sand pockets.

    Stand to the side of the cabana and draw the side panels together.

    Holding the frame on either side, and about half way up, bend the top of the cabana over so that the apex meets the middle of the base.

    Take a step back and rotate hands 180 degrees so thumbs are pointing towards you.

    Roll one side in, followed by the other so that the frame forms concentric circles. Allow one of the two vertical hoops to tuck inside the other. The two hoops will collapse naturally on top of each other.

    Insert the folded cabana back inside the carry bag.

    Watch the video on how to fold and dismantle the beach cabana.

  • Clothing

  • How do you choose sun protection clothing?

    • Covers as much skin as possible eg. shirts with long sleeves and high necks/collars.
    • Is made from close weave materials such as cotton, polyester/cotton and linen.
    • If used for swimming, is made from materials such as lycra, which stays sun protective when wet.

    All Cancer Council clothing features Ultraviolet Protection Factor rating of UPF50+ and are made from durable, quick-drying fabrics.