What you need to know about sunscreen for summer

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Did you know skin cancer is the most prevalent cancer in New Zealand? Living in Australasia makes us some of the most at-risk to skin cancer in the world, and the sun’s to blame. No matter if you’re young or old, you’re at risk, and while you should be wearing effective sunscreen year-round, the summer is when you really need to slip, slop, slap and wrap. The slop step – the sunscreen step – is the one I’ll tell you about today.

What does SPF really mean?

The world of sunscreen can be overwhelming. It stands for sun protection factor and relates to the time it takes for your skin to burn when you have sunscreen on. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB light, and SPF 30 blocks 97%. That basically means that just because 30 is twice of 15, SPF 30 is not twice as effective as SPF 15 (but it is better). You also want to check your sunscreen is ‘broad spectrum’, that is, that it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays, as they are both harmful.

New Zealand and Australian standards limit SPF labelling beyond 50, as they are misleading. Buying SPF 70 or 100 sunscreen gives you a false sense of security that you’re going to be completely safe from the sun, and so people are less likely to reapply, or stay in the shade, and all the other sensible sunsafe things to do. Speaking of reapplying, you should be putting more sunscreen on every two hours, and more regularly if you’re in the water.

How much sunscreen should I use?

Lots! Much more than you think. For your sunscreen to give you the full protection it can offer, you need to use about 35ml for your whole body. That’s more than a full shot glass, or a cupped handful. Heaps, right? You should be using a full teaspoon for your face, and don’t forget your ears, the back of your neck, and other hard-to-get spots.

Can I combine multiple products with SPF?

You can, kind of. If you’re wearing a SPF 30 moisturiser and an SPF 25 BB cream, it doesn’t mean you’ve now got SPF 55 protection. You can’t add them up. But every layer of product with SPF you’re putting on increases the total amount of product per square centimetre of skin, so it’s taking you closer and closer to a true SPF 25 protection (obviously an SPF 25 product can’t give you that last step towards SPF 30 protection). A good rule to stick to is: the more the better!

How else can I protect myself and my family from the sun?

Remember the other keywords: slip, slop, slap, and wrap. Slip on a long-sleeved shirt to protect your arms and body from the sun, like the Next Persian Knit Cover Up or this Ezibuy one. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses.

Next also offers sunsafe swimsuits for kids, which offer more protection than a teeny bikini or board shorts. They’re super cute, too!