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HealthInfo Canterbury

Sun-smart behaviour

New Zealand's sun can have very high levels of ultra violent (UV) radiation (as can sunbeds). Too much UV can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer, including melanoma, which is the most dangerous skin cancer. Being sun smart means always avoiding getting sunburned.

How to avoid too much UV

two young children at the beach wearing sun-protective swimwearThe best way to avoid too much UV is to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm during the months of daylight saving. This is when UV is at its most intense.

If you do need to be outside during this time, there are several things you can do to cut down the amount of UV you are exposed to.

Shade

Shade is one of the best ways to protect your skin. Seek it out whenever you can, whether by using umbrellas or shelter.

Cover up

When you can't find shade, cover up to keep the sun off your skin and out of your eyes. Wear:

Use sunscreen

Use sunscreen as well as protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses. Use it on any exposed skin you can't fully cover, such as your face. Always use a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen of at least SPF (sun protection factor) 30.

Make sure you use enough sunscreen. As a guide, an average-sized adult should use 7 tsp for their whole body (arms, legs, torso, back, face, hands, neck and ears). That's a good cupped palm-full. You can see a short video on how much sunscreen to apply on this SunSmart page.

Avoid sunbeds

Some people think that using a sunbed is a safe way to tan, but this isn't true. Using a sunbed increases your risk of getting melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer. It also ages your skin prematurely. You can read more about the effects of sunbeds in this leaflet from the Cancer Society.

Keep babies safe from the sun

Keep babies less than 6 months old out of the sun when the UV index is three or higher (the NIWA link below explains the UV index). If that's not possible, make sure your baby is wearing clothes and a hat for protection. Only apply sunscreen to areas that can't be protected by clothing or wraps, such as baby's face, ears, and hands.

Sun and vitamin D

We all need brief exposure to the sun to make enough vitamin D. Unless you have sun-damaged skin or a history of skin cancer, the best way to get this is by outside activity, such as a daily walk. The time of day you should do this varies with the season: around noon from May to August, or before 10 am or after 4 pm from September to April. Read the Ministry of Health's information on sun exposure and vitamin D.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

On the next page: Heat & sun injuries

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated October 2017.

Sources

See also:

Skin cancer

Page reference: 21198

Review key: HISUM-84488