With summer at our door step, we find ourselves shedding the winter warmers and opting for a more casual feel on those sunny summer days. Living in Australia we are blessed with some of the best weather all year round, allowing us to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Although this can come with a detrimental price to our skin unless we are sun safe this summer.

Australia has one of the highest rates of Skin Cancer in the world, with two out of three Australians developing some form of skin cancer in their life. This is why we have a wealth of institutions all promoting the core basic around Skin Cancer. These basics being, “protection, early detection, treatment and continued vigilance.”

At Brassall Pharmacy we follow this mantra and provide our customers with a range of products and information whilst providing a referral network to like-minded health professionals to help manage and combat the fierce nature of Skin Cancers and promoting a sun safe summer.

What can you do to be sun safe this summer, to prevent yourself from becoming another statistic?

Well like the famous Sun Smart campaign from the 1980’s boasted, “SLIP! SLOP! SLAP!” We have all heard this and most likely it was drilled into us when we were at school or when our kids were at school. By following a few simple steps like Slipping on a shirt, Slopping on some sunscreen and Slapping on a hat we can ultimately reduce our exposure the harsh UV rays of our sun whilst enjoying the majestic outdoors.

However, there is that age old question round, “What is the best sunscreen?” When we peruse the sunscreen isle in our local Pharmacy, we see terms like SPF, Mineral sunscreens, Chemical sunscreens and water resistant sunscreens. How do we know which type is best for us? By understanding these terms above and making a decision, based on individual needs and personal preference we can protect ourselves when stepping outside.

What does SPF rating actually mean? SPF means Sun Protection Factor. The sun generates ultra violet light A & B known as UVA and UVB.  The UVB is what cause sunburn to our skin, whilst both contribute to an increased risk of skin cancers. Most sunscreens range from SPF15+, SPF30+ to SPF50+. These numbers equate to the amount of protection they provide from the harmful UVB rays generated by the sun. By applying a SPF30+ sunscreen we can effectively block 97% of the harmful UVB rays whilst using a SPF50+sunscreen we increasing that to 98%.  However, sunscreens are only effective if we apply them correctly. This means following the directions listed on the product, making sure we cover all areas that will be exposed and re-applying at the appropriate intervals so that we are sun safe this summer.

Mineral Sunscreens Vs Chemical Sunscreens, what is the difference? And is one better than the other? Well Mineral Sunscreens work by providing a physical barrier between the skin and the sun reflecting the UV rays away from the skin. They contain compound such as Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Whilst Chemical Sunscreens work by absorb the UV rays converting them to heat and releasing them from the skin. These sunscreens contain carbon based compounds such as avobenzone, oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene, octisalate, homosalate, or combinations of these compounds. Both types of sunscreen offer great protection form the harmful effects of the sun, however mineral sunscreens seem be less likely to react with sensitive skin or people who suffer from common skin conditions such as dermatitis or rosacea.

Are sunscreens waterproof? Unfortunately, no sunscreen is waterproof. However there are sunscreens that are water resistant. This meaning they provide protection for up to a period of time whilst under wet conditions. Most water resistant sunscreens can provide protection in water or wet environments for up to 40 minutes before they need to be re-applied.

Why do we need water resistant sunscreens? We are still exposed to the harmful effects of the sun whilst we are in the water. The UV rays of the sun still penetrate through water and can harm our skin just as much as being outside the water. We only feel we are protected because of the cooling effects of the water on our skin, that we don’t actually realise the extent of damage until we are out of the water. Not to mention the water slowly washes away the protective layer of sunscreen we initially applied prior to entering the water and thus increasing our risk of exposure to the harmful effects of the sun. 

Another frequent question is, “what form of sunscreen is better”? Creams, Lotions, Sprays or Oils? Well, as long as they all have an adequate SPF rating of at least 30+ or higher then there is no great difference between creams, lotions or sprays. Most notably, sunscreen sprays have become increasingly popular for the perceived benefit of being a more convenient delivery method. However, this is not necessarily the case as they still need to be rubbed into all those important areas and hard to reach places which can still be easily missed, thus reducing the level of sun protection. Tanning oils are extremely popular as a lot of people strive for that flawless summer skin tone, but they offer the least amount of protection from the sun. The reason for this is that tanning oils, whilst they may claim to have a specific SPF rating the oil base can actually reduce the effectiveness of the SPF of the product by allowing the harmful UVA and UVB rays to penetrate through the surface of the skin. Whilst they may be optimal for those of you looking for a quick summer tan, they are actually more detrimental than we realise and opens us up to sunburn, skin damage and increasing our risk of skin cancer. This is why it is recommended to use a cream, lotion or spray. But once again these products will only be effective if we apply them correctly.

What are the most common problems with sunscreen, in protecting us from the sun?

The most common issue around sun protection is we often get distracted by what we are doing and forget to reapply our sunscreen at the appropriate intervals. Most sunscreens need to be reapplied every two hours and particularly after getting out the water or after activities where we may have been sweating. Another common problem with sunscreen application is that we seldom apply the appropriate amount of cream the all areas exposed to the sun.

How do I know how much sunscreen to apply? The best way to measure how much sunscreen to apply is using the scale of a dollop the size of a twenty cent piece for each limb or area. For instance, each arm, leg, torso, back and neck plus head we would use one dollop the size of a 20c piece and distribute this around the entirety of that limb or area making sure we cover all parts. If we can’t reach an area, be sure to get a friend or family member to help you so that you don’t end up with those hilarious sunburn lines or shapes and ultimately put yourself at risk of skin damage from the sun. If you are ever unsure if you’ve applied enough sunscreen then in that instance we can use the good old saying “more is better!” When applying our sunscreen we often get caught up on making sure we cover those large area like our arms or legs but sometimes miss those crucial little spots such as our ears, lips and even the tops of our feet. Continued overlooking of these area can lead to an increased risk of developing skin cancers, so be sure to take your time and cover every part of your body for ultimate protection whilst being sun safe this summer.

What is the best sunscreen for our face? The majority of sunscreens can be applied to anywhere on our body, however a lot of cosmetic companies are now designing face moisturisers with sunscreens in them. Which actually makes a lot of sense for everyday use, because as we go about our lives from day to day we may at times be exposed to the sun for short periods. Having as daily moisturisers which doubles as a sunscreen is perfect especially for those of you looking to maintain your skin whilst holding off the aging effects of the sun. These types of product generally tend to me more expensive than your average sunscreen but there is a number of great products out there which won’t break the bank.

Will sunscreens upset my dermatitis or skin condition? If you suffer from sensitive skin or a medical condition which affects your skin then sunscreen is one of the most important products you will require as the sun can be devastating to you. But, yes some products can react with sensitive skin. There are range of products in our sun care range that are hypoallergenic, paraben free an oil free which help reduce the likelihood of reacting with sensitive skin. Be sure to read the label to find out if the product you are considering meets these particulars.     

At the end of the day a lot of our decisions come from trail an error to find a sunscreen that not only protects us, but is compatible with our needs and skin type. So how do you know what sunscreen is best for you? Well, you need to take in to account your skin type, how your skin reacts with different products, what activities we are doing and make an educated decision from there. So, for instance if I was to suffer from dermatitis and had planned on going to the beach this summer, I would be looking for a mineral sunscreen which is water resistant. That way not only am I protecting my skin from the harmful UV rays of our sun but also reducing the chances of irritating my sensitive skin from chemicals.  However, they will only be effective in protecting us from the sun and reducing our risk of skin cancers if we follow the directions.

So be Sun Safe this summer and find yourself a Sunscreen that suits your needs at Brassall Pharmacy.   

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