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How to find the right sunscreen for you

We know that regular application of sunscreen is a key tool in your sun safety kit — but with so many brands and varieties available, how do you know which one is right for you and your family?

Cancer Council advises that everyone should be wearing sunscreen on days that have a UV index of 3 or above. For many Australia cities, that’s up to three quarters of the year.

We know that putting on sunscreen should be a part of your morning routine on most days of the year. But don’t just grab the first bottle you spot on the shelf: when you’re choosing a sunscreen, there are a number of factors to consider to determine which option is best for you.

Here’s how to choose the right sunscreen for you:

Look for ‘Broad Spectrum’

There are two different types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. UVA rays penetrate further into the skin are responsible for the visible signs of premature ageing, such as wrinkles. UVB rays are the ones that cause sunburn. Both UVA and UVB rays contribute to increased skin cancer risk, so it’s important to choose a sunscreen that protects against both.

That’s where ‘Broad Spectrum’ comes in. This term simply describes a sunscreen that filters both UVA and UVB rays. Make sure that whichever sunscreen you’re buying is marked ‘Broad Spectrum’.

Choose your SPF

The SPF in products can vary greatly, from foundations with SPF15 to sunscreens with SPF50 .

The highest rating in Australia is SPF50 , and this is the best protection that you can offer yourself with sunscreen. SPF50 sunscreens filter out 98% of UVB radiation, making them the safest and best choice in sun protection.

Consider your activities

Another point to think about is what you’ll be doing throughout your day. This is important because if you’re sweating or in the water, your sunscreen may come off and you’ll need to apply it more regularly.

If you’re very active, you may wish to consider buying a sunscreen that’s specifically formulated for sport. These sunscreens are resistant against things like sand and sweat and are water-resistant for up to four hours (although you might want to apply it more regularly to be on the safe side).

Pick an application method

The best application method is the one that you’re most likely to use.

For example, if you spend most of your day indoors and are most concerned by sun exposure to your face, a formula with a tint may provide extra incentive for you to use it.

Some people find a roll-on or stick sunscreen particularly easy to apply, while others dislike the feel of a cream sunscreen on their skin, and prefer a clear-mist formula.

No matter which application method you use, remember to apply it liberally in any areas that are likely to be exposed to the sun throughout your day and reapply regularly.

Think about your skin type

Anything you apply to your skin should be appropriate for your skin type, and that includes sunscreen.

For children’s skin, it’s best to choose a formula that’s made for young, sensitive skin and is preferably pediatrician tested, with a high SPF.

Sensitive skin types tend to find fragrances and additives irritating. Choose a product developed for sensitive skin that’s fragrance-free and gentle enough to not cause irritation, while still offering sun protection.

For people concerned about premature ageing, there are a number of sunscreens on the market that offer sun protection while helping to reduce the appearance of visible signs of ageing, through the use of ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids (or AHAs).

Oily or acne-prone skin types may wish to avoid creamy or heavy sunscreens and instead choose a clear gel or mist that’s less likely to block pores and exacerbate breakouts.

On the other hand, people with dry skin tend to gravitate towards formulas that help to replenish moisture levels in the skin and protect against dryness.

Make sure you buy enough

So you’ve found a sunscreen that works for you — but how do you know which size to get?

With sunscreen, bigger is generally better as you want to have plenty of sunscreen available. If you’re buying a bottle for your home, choose a large one that will not only last longer but may also save you money.

However, if you’re travelling or on-the-go, you may wish to choose a smaller bottle that’s more portable.

Just remember, a full-body application of sunscreen for an adult should be at least 35ml or 7 teaspoons, so while a 75ml bottle may save space in your handbag, it may only cover you for two applications. These smaller containers are generally better to use to ‘top-up’ your sunscreen application, rather than relying on them to protect you at the beach or pool.

And check the expiry date - and the storage

That old bottle of sunscreen that has been in the glove box for two summers is likely out-of-date. And storage in extreme temperatures further causes loss of effectiveness. Maybe it’s time for a refresh of the family’s sunscreen!

You may also be interested in the following:

Can babies wear sunscreen
How to apply sunscreen properly
Sun Care

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Acknowledgement of Country

Capital Chemist acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we operate, live and gather as employees, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. We pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.