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Practise safe sunning during your holiday in Australia

People taking a holiday in Australia will want to protect their skin from the sun's strong rays. While the country's plentiful sunlight is certainly part of its appeal, ultra-violet rays can be harmful to human skin in large doses. In order to protect yourself from UVA and UVB rays, consider the following facts about sunlight and skin protection

What is ultraviolet radiation?

Our sun emits an entire spectrum of rays collectively referred to as electromagnetic light. This sunlight includes long-wave (UVA) and short-wave (UVB) rays that measure beyond the visual spectrum of light. This means that while we can see visible light rays with our bare eyes, we can't see UVA and UVB.

These strong waves of light penetrate our atmosphere and can cause lasting damage for our skin. Exposure to UVA and UVB has been known to result in premature skin ageing, skin cancer and eye damage

How to protect against UVA and UVB

When packing for your holiday in Australia, you'll want to select a sunscreen that offers adequate protection from harmful rays. However, there's more to picking out sunscreen than simply buying a bottle of SPF 50 lotion. Did you know that sun protection products are known for being mislabelled, and are sometimes ineffective? Did you know that there are a variety of ways to make a sun-protecting product, some of which involve the use of chemicals known to potentially lead to cancer?

Sun protection factor: One key piece of information to consider when sunscreen shopping is the sun protection factor (SPF) of each product. SPF measures how long it will take for UV rays to penetrate the skin, and compares that figure to how long it would take for skin to burn without the SPF. Theoretically, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 would increase the amount of time one could spend in the sun before burning 30-fold.

However, many sunscreens are mislabelled, and a higher SPF doesn't necessarily correlate with a lower capacity for burns. In many European countries, sunscreen manufacturers aren't permitted to produce products with an SPF of more than 50 because it has been shown that doing so can lead to misuse of the product by consumers. For example, a person might believe they are protected so strongly from UV rays that they neglect to reapply sunscreen throughout the day.

Broad spectrum protection: You need to protect your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. In order to make sure you're doing this, purchase products that say 'multi spectrum', 'broad spectrum' or 'UVA/UVB protection'.

Ingredients: A few ingredients commonly used in sunscreens are known to cause harm to the human body when absorbed into the bloodstream. Vitamin A, also known as retinyl palmitate or retinol, has been shown to promote the development of skin tumours, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Oxybenzone is another common sunscreen ingredient, and is a known endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors create the presence of a synthetic estrogen-like substance within the body, leading to complications in the reproductive system. Additionally, high estrogen levels are correlated with an increase risk for many cancers.

Tips for applying sunscreen

After you've purchased a good sunblock, it's time to enjoy your time in the sun! Before spending time outside, follow a few tips from Cancer Council Australia for applying sunscreen and staying safe:

Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
Apply your sunscreen at least 20 minutes prior to going outside, and continue re-applying it throughout the day.
Wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your scalp and eyes from UVA and UVB rays.
If you are travelling with babies and small children, protect their precious skin with loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible.
Take breaks from the sun by spending time in the shade or indoors periodically.

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