How to be SunSmart

Protect yourself in five ways from skin cancer

Sunscreen is not a suit of armour – how to be SunSmart

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. The major cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. You can prevent damage – and skin cancer – by being SunSmart.

Sunscreen is just one of five ways of reducing the risk of skin cancer. For the best protection, use all five SunSmart steps:

 1. Slip on protective clothing

Look for:

  • Clothing that covers as much skin as possible, including collars
  • Materials that have a close weave for higher UV protection. If you can easily see through the fabric, chances are UV can easily pass through it
  • Darker colours which absorb UV radiation better than white or pastel colours of the same fabric.
  • Material with high UV Protection Factor (UPF), which explains how much sun protection the material provides. Look for a UPF of at least 30 for good protection and UPF50+ for excellent protection.

2. Slop on SPF 30 or higher sunscreen

Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen every day when the UV index is forecast to be 3 or above. Sunscreen should be incorporated into your daily morning routine on these days.

No sunscreen provides 100% UV protection – remember to use in combination with protective clothing, hats and sunglasses. Re-apply at least every 2 hours while you are outside.

Look for a sunscreen that:

  • Has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
  • Is labelled ‘broad spectrum’ – this will filter both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Is water resistant – less likely to be washed off by water activities or sweat
  • Meets Australian standards – look for ‘AUST L’ or ‘AS/NZS 2604:98’ on the label
  • Has a valid expiry date

3. Slap on a hat

Slap on a hat that provides as much shade as possible to your face, head, neck, ears and eyes.

There are three main styles of hats that provide adequate sun protection:

  • Broad brimmed hats – with a brim of at least 7.5cm
  • Bucket or ‘surfie’ style hats – with a deep crown and brim of at least 6cm
  • Legionnaire hats – with a flap that covers the back of the neck

Baseball caps and visors are not recommended as they leave the ears and the back of the neck exposed.

4. Seek shade

Staying in the shade is one of the most effective ways to reduce sun exposure, but remember:

  • Other sun protection measures (clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen) should also be used to avoid reflected UV radiation.
  • Whatever you use for shade, be it trees, built shade structures or some form of portable shade, make sure it casts a dark shadow.

5. Slide on some sunglasses

Sunglasses can protect your eyes against UV radiation. When choosing sunglasses look for:

  • Frames that fit close to the face
  • Wrap around styles that reduce UV entering from the sides
  • The Australian standard label.
    All sunglasses sold in Australia must be tested and labelled according to the Australian/New Zealand standard AS/NZS 1067:2003 Sunglasses and Fashion Spectacles
  • Sunglasses that have an eye protection factor (EPF) of 10
  • If you wear prescription glasses consider adding a UV protective coating, attaching protective shades or wearing prescription sunglasses


When to use sun protection

The best way to know when you need to use sun protection is to use the UV Index. The UV Index is a simple measure of the UV radiation level at the Earth’s surface. The values of the Index range from zero upward and the higher the Index value, the greater the potential for damage to the skin and eyes, and the less time it takes for harm to occur.

You need to use sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or above.

A daily UV forecast, including sun protection times, is available for over 600 Australian locations at the Bureau of Meteorology website. One of the quickest and easiest ways to check the UV level at your location is to use the free Cancer Council SunSmart app – remember to change your location on the app if you are travelling.

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Western Australia

New South Wales

Forecast Data

New Zealand

Forecast - Wa


UV level
's Forecast UV Index -
Very High

UV observation courtesy of ARPANSA

UV readings from around AUS
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