10 rules for being sun-smart in New Zealand

Skin cancer is, sadly, the most common type of cancer in New Zealand. In fact, it’s estimated that skin cancers account for as many as 80% of all new cancers every year, making it an incredibly common ailment for Kiwis. 

Between our harsh sun with its strong levels of UV radiation and our love of time spent at the beach, many of us end up looking a little too pink for our own good. And as much as it hurts at the time, the danger of sunburn is that it can increase the chance of skin cancer down the track. 

But that doesn’t mean we have to become as nocturnal as our national bird. Instead, we can follow these 10 rules for being sun-smart.

1. Stay out of the sun from 10am to 2pm 

The sun’s UV radiation is strongest between 10am and 2pm, with 65% of UV radiation reaching the earth between these times. Therefore, it’s best to simply stay out of the sun during this harsh window of time and try to minimise your time in the direct sunlight until 4pm when possible. 

2. Reapply, reapply, reapply 

If you’re spending the day outdoors, one sunscreen application simply isn’t enough. As a rule of thumb, aim to reapply every two hours or so. This is especially important if you’re exercising and sweating, or swimming. 

3. Don’t forget sunscreen’s sidekicks

Sunscreen is your best friend against the sun’s rays, but don’t forget the rest of the UV radiation-fighting crew. This includes sunglasses, hats, shirts, or even just a beach towel draped over yourself as you relax on the beach. You know the saying; slip, slop, slap, and wrap. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on some sunglasses for the best protection. 

4. Opt for broad-spectrum SPF50 or higher

Not all sunscreens are created equal, so it’s important to know what the terms on the bottle mean. SPF stands for sun protection factor, and it gives you an idea of how much UV radiation can get through to your skin. The higher the better, because an SPF of 30 means that one-thirtieth (or 3.3%) of the UV light will reach your skin, whereas an SPF of 50 means that just one-fiftieth (or 2%) will reach your skin. For higher protection, opt for a broad-spectrum SPF50. Also look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which means it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB radiation gets into the top layer of the skin and can cause sunburn, skin damage and skin cancer. While UVA radiation goes deep into the skin and can cause long-term damage like wrinkles and skin cancer. 

5. Try a spray-on sunscreen

Are you sun-smart with your sunscreen, but still end up with odd lines and blotches from where you missed during application? Repeat sunscreen applications throughout the day can minimise the chance of missing spots, but a spray-on sunscreen can also make application much easier when it comes to achieving full coverage. It can also be so quick and easy that it makes reapplication much less of a chore and can make it simple for someone else to quickly cover your back where you can’t reach, even with a spray bottle. 

6. Don’t rely on clouds

A cloudy day can provide some protection, but light cloud cover may only reduce UV radiation by a fifth, so it’s important to still apply sunscreen, stay out of the direct sunlight around noon, and follow all the other sun-smart guidelines even when the Land of the Long White Cloud lives up to its name.  

7. Don’t forget your lips

Have you ever had badly chapped lips? That’s what it feels like to have sunburn on your lips, only more painful. Simply using your normal sunscreen on your lips will do a good job, but you can also find lip balms with SPF30+ that can help to protect your lips from the sun’s rays. Be sure to reapply after eating or drinking as well. 

8. Be wary of rubbing off your sunscreen

Be extra cautious if you’re doing things that might rub the sunscreen off. For example, if you’re hiking with a backpack on, the backpack can rub off sunscreen, especially around the straps and lower back, so be sure to reapply when you take it off for a break. Pro tip: Always reapply after you go to the bathroom, or you will end up with burnt hands from washing the sunscreen off!

9. Use water-resistant sunscreen for any water-based activities

Water-resistant sunscreen is typically a little tackier, which can feel heavier on the skin if you’re not used to wearing creams or lotions. However, it’s essential to opt for water-resistant sunscreens if you’re swimming or playing in the water to help the product stay in place. Also be sure to read the bottle, as some water-resistant products will last longer in the water than others. And don’t forget to reapply after each swim! 

10. Put sunscreen on before you get dressed

One of the best sunscreen application tips out there is to apply your sunscreen before you get dressed or put on your togs. This way, you’ll avoid missing lines around the tops of your shorts, you won’t forget that there’s a rip in your jean shorts that would leave a burn, and you won’t get awkward jandal burn lines as the straps move around when you walk. Be sure to give it a few minutes to dry on your skin before getting dressed so it doesn’t rub off on your clothes. 

And while you’re waiting for your sunscreen to dry, it will only take a few minutes to request a quote for One Choice Life Insurance. You’ll be looking out for your skin as you take the first step in looking out for your family as well.