Australians are using sunscreen incorrectly, so we now have a new set of guidelines.

There are new guidelines out today for applying sunscreen.

It seems Australians have been doing it all wrong, and most people don’t apply enough.

The Australasian College of Dermatologists (ACD) recommends at least one teaspoon (5mL) to each body part – at least 20 minutes before going outdoors.

The effectiveness of a sunscreen depends on how well it is applied.

The ACD say it is important to reapply every two hours and use a water-resistant sunscreen when swimming or exercising.

The Cancer Council will be changing their sunscreen packaging to reflect the new advice and make it clear that water resistant products still need reapplying.

The changes follow 400 complaints made to the Cancer Council about their sunscreen “not working”.

One of the complaints included a Queensland mother who said her three-month-old son was hospitalised with a “horrible rash” after using SPF50+ Peppa Pig sunscreen.

But after testing their sunscreens, the Cancer Council found human error was causing sunburn rather than their products.

“Research shows that most Australians don’t use sunscreen correctly and this year our analysis of consumer complaints taught us that reports of sunburn were largely due to inadequate application. This has taught us that we need to more as a cancer charity to educate Australians about correct sunscreen use,” said Professor Sanchia Aranda, CEO, Cancer Council Australia.

Sunscreens that claim to be four hours’ water resistant also need to be reapplied because lab testing didn’t consider perspiration.


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“The biggest issue is making sure Australians are using enough sunscreen. It’s recommended that at least one teaspoon (5ml) is used for each limb, one for the head, torso and back. This means one full body application is around 35ml. We will make this more obvious on our labels,” Professor Aranda added.

President of the ACD, Chris Baker, said sunscreens undergo “extensive testing” before they are approved to go on the market.

“Sometimes, side effects can occur, such as skin irritation or allergic reactions,” said Associate Professor Baker.

“These are most commonly a reaction to a chemical in the product – such as fragrances or preservatives – rather than the active sunscreen ingredient itself. There is no evidence to support concerns about the safety of sunscreens, including physical ‘nano-particle’ ingredients such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, ” he added.

The ACD says no sunscreen will block 100% of UV radiation and should be used in conjunction with physical protection.

“Sunscreen should always be used in conjunction with broadbrim hats, protective clothing, sunglasses and shade. This is particularly the case for young babies, who should be kept out of direct sun,” said The Cancer Council’s CEO, Professor Aranda.

“Sunscreen should always be the last line of defence and the widespread use of chemical sunscreens on babies under six months should be generally avoided. Given 2 in 3 Australians will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime, developing good sun protection habits makes sense,” she added.