Sunscreen regulations

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New regulations relating to the rating of sunscreens means you can now get greater skin protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Previously, the highest protection sunscreens available in Australia had a rating of SPF 30+. From November 10,  2012, sunscreens with an SPF of 50+ can be supplied in Australia. SPF 50+ sunscreens provide better protection from sunburn and long term skin damage than SPF 30+.

In fact, SPF 50+ will give up to 50 per cent more protection sun protection than SPF 30+. So what does SPF mean and why is a higher rating better? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor.

The SPF rating is literally how much sun protection your skin has compared to wearing no sunscreen at all.

For example, if without sunscreen your skin will burn after one minute exposure to the sun, then wearing SPF 50+ means it will take 50 minutes for your skin to burn. While you do get much greater protection using SPF 50+, you still need to apply it every two hours to get maximum sun protection.

As many people know, sunscreen allows much less UVA radiation, which is largely responsible for melanomas and skin cancer, to pass through a layer of sunscreen. The higher the SPF rating is, the better the sunscreen protects your skin. While these regulations are great news, you may have difficulty finding the higher rated SPF 50+ products.

This is because some sunscreen brands have actually been rated SPF 50+ for a while but due to the old regulations have only been labelled as SPF 30+.

Rather than pull these products off the shelf, many brands are allowing these to sell before releasing the 50+ labelled sunscreens next year. For example, the popular ‘Sunsense’ range of products, which you can only find in pharmacies, all meet the SPF 50+ regulations and have for some time.

However, the current stock is labelled as SPF 30+ and the labelling will change to 50+ over time.  

If you would like the higher rated sunscreens but can’t find them, speak with your pharmacist who will be able to show you the products that are SPF 50+ but may not be labelled so.

Finally, while SPF 50+ is great protection against the harsh Australian sun, sunscreen alone is not enough. Being ‘sun smart’ also includes wearing a hat, covering up with appropriate clothing and seeking out shade where possible.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!

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