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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Sun-smart behaviour

Ngā tikanga tau o te rā

New Zealand's sun can have very high levels of ultraviolet (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

The best way to avoid too much UV is to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm from September to April. This is when UV is at its most intense. You can check the daily recommendations for your area on SunSmart.

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

Cover up

two young children at the beach wearing sun-protective swimwearWhen you cannot find shade, cover up to keep the sun off your skin and out of your eyes. Wear:


Use lots of sunscreen and reapply it often. Use it on any exposed skin you cannot fully cover, such as your face. Always use a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) water-resistant 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 is a good cupped palm-full.

See the video at the top of this page for how much sunscreen to apply and how to apply it.

Avoid sunbeds

Some people think that using a sunbed is a safe way to tan, but this is not 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 risks of using sunbeds on the Te Whatu Ora website.

Keep babies safe from the sun

Keep pēpi (babies) less than 6 months old out of the sun when the UV index is 3 or higher (the NIWA link below explains the UV index). If that is not possible, make sure your pēpi is wearing clothes and a hat for protection. Only apply sunscreen to areas that cannot be protected by clothing or wraps, such as your 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, before 10 am or after 4 pm from September to April.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed December 2021.


See also:

Skin cancer

Page reference: 21198

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