Learn how to be SunSmart by enjoying the sun safely. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand. Along with Australia, we have the highest melanoma rates in the world.
How can I protect my skin?
The cause of over 90% of skin cancer is too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
You can take steps to protect yourself, your whānau, and your community from harmful UV radiation by:
How can I be SunSmart?
Follow our Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap guidelines to reduce your exposure to UV radiation:
Shade (Slip) /Whakaritea he wāhi marumaru
Slip into shade where possible. This is the best way to protect yourself. Shade can be provided by buildings, trees, or shade structures such as marquees.
Clothing (Slip) / Kuhunga he kākahu parekiri
Slip on some sun protective clothing, such as:
- a shirt with a collar and long sleeves and trousers or long-legged shorts
- a darker, close weave material offers the best protection
- some clothing will have an Ultraviolet Protective Factor (UPF) on the label. We recommend clothing that complies with the AS/NZS 4399:2017 standard
Sunscreen (Slop) / Pania he kirīmi pare tīkākā I mua I te putanga ki waho I te whare
Slop on broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30, and has the AS/NZ 2604 standard on the label.
Try not to rely on sunscreen alone – make sure you Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap too!
Sunscreen protection depends on the correct application. Make sure you:
- apply 20 minutes before you go outdoors
- reapply every two hours or more often if you are swimming or sweating it off
- the average sized adult should apply 1 teaspoon to each arm, and to the face (including the ears and neck); and at least a teaspoon to each leg, the front of the body, and the back of the body. Thats 7 teaspoons for a full-body application.
- make sure the kids apply their sunscreen correctly
- check the expiry date on your sunscreen and make sure you store it in a cool place (below 30°C)
Hats (Slap) / Whakamauria he pōtae whānui te peha
Slap on a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears.
Broad-brimmed, bucket or legionnaire hats are best. We don't recommend caps.
We recommend hats that comply with the AS/NZS 4399:2017 standard.
Sunglasses (Wrap) / Kuhunga he mōwhiti rā
Wrap on some close-fitting sunglasses.
Make sure they meet the Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 1067:2016).
Don't use sunbeds
Sunbeds (solaria) emit artificial UV radiation. Using sunbeds significantly increase your risk of melanoma (a serious form of skin cancer).
Our advice to you is to never use sunbeds. It is illegal for people under the age of 18 to use commercial sunbeds.
When to be SunSmart
- From September to April, especially between the hours of 10:00 am - 4:00 pm when UV radiation levels are very high.
- When UV Index (UVI) levels are 3 and above. Download the free UVNZ app on android or iPhone or check the Metservice weather forecast for your town or city to find out what the forecasted UVI level is near you. The UVI is a measure of the level of UV radiation from the sun.
- use sun protection throughout the year when at high altitudes or near reflective surfaces, such as snow or water
- use sun protection all year-round if you have a history of skin cancer and sun damage, a health condition or taking medicines (such as antibiotics) that make you sensitive to the sun. This includes people with autoimmune diseases or conditions that weaken the immune system, as well as people who have had organ transplants.
Babies and sunscreen
All babies under 12 months should be kept out of the direct sun from September to April, between 10:00 am-4:00 pm.
Babies should be protected by shade, clothing and broad-brimmed hats. Sunscreen may be used on small areas of a baby’s skin but do not rely on sunscreen as the main sun protection.
Use of sunscreen on babies under six months is not recommended, as they have sensitive skin and should be kept in the shade where possible.
If you need to use sunscreen on a baby (at any age), use sunscreen labelled as being for sensitive skin or suitable for children. If possible, do a "patch test" first, by applying a small amount of sunscreen on the inner arm for a few days in a row. If their skin becomes red, itchy, or has blistering or swelling, wash the skin and stop using this product. See a doctor if you are concerned.
Keep in mind that some people can be allergic to sunscreen ingredients and may react after repeated use. This is very uncommon.
How to check your skin for changes
Check your skin by looking over your entire body regularly. You're looking for changes to or new spots or moles on your skin.
Skin cancers can be in places you cannot see yourself, so you may need to ask someone to help you check or use a hand mirror.
Remember to check places that might not normally get exposed to the sun, such as:
- your armpits
- behind your ears
- your scalp
- the bottom of your feet
- your fingernails and toenails
It is a good idea to keep track of how spots and moles look, so you know if they have changed since you last checked your skin.
If you notice any changes in your skin changes or your general health, talk to your doctor.
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