How to protect your skin

When UV levels reach three and above it is recommended that you protect your skin in five ways for maximum protection – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide:

  • Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible; it’s one of the best barriers between your skin and the sun.
  • Slop on a SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply regularly.
  • Slap on a hat that provides protection to your face, neck and ears.
  • Seek shade when outdoors, staying under a tree and umbrella can reduce your overall exposure to UV radiation.
  • Slide on some sunglasses that are close fitting, wraparound and cover as much of the eye area as possible.

More information on how to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide:

Slip on clothing

To protect your skin from over exposure to UV radiation, wearing clothing that covers as much skin as possible is recommended. It is important to consider both the weave of the fabric and the style of the clothing when choosing appropriate protection.

  • Shirts with collars and long sleeves and long trousers or skirts give you the most protection.
  • Look for clothing made of a closely woven material - the tighter the weave of the material, the better protection from UV radiation.
  • Darker colours give slightly more protection than lighter colours, but can be hotter to wear during warmer weather.

Some clothes are labelled with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF). The UPF number is a guide to how much protection the fabric provides from UV radiation. Look for a UPF 50+ for maximum protection.

For more information, visit the ARPANSA clothing information site:

Slop on sunscreen

Sunscreen should always be used with other forms of skin protection. Sunscreen contains chemicals that either absorb or reflect UV radiation before it damages the skin.

SPF 50+ sunscreens filter out about 98 per cent of UV rays. Those labelled broad spectrum filter both UVB and UVA radiation. The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) label on a sunscreen is only a guide to the strength of the product, not how much time you can safely spend in the sun.

Choosing sunscreen

It is important to choose a maximum protection sunscreen, so look for one that is labelled SPF 30 of higher and broad spectrum. Sunscreen comes in a variety of different formulas (milk, lotion, cream), so choose one that suits you best. Check the use by date on the sunscreen and don’t use a sunscreen that is out of date.  Always store your sunscreen under 25°c.

Applying sunscreen

Always apply sunscreen liberally to clean dry skin 20 minutes before going outside. Use one teaspoonful (5 ml) for each arm, leg, front torso, back torso and your face, neck and ears. This means a full body application is 7 teaspoons (35 ml) of sunscreen.

Reapply every two hours, or more regularly if you are perspiring or involved in water activities.

You do not need to rub sunscreen into your skin until it disappears. The cream will be absorbed into your skin over the 20 minutes before you go out into the sun.

No sunscreen – even if it is reapplied regularly - offers complete protection against UV radiation.  Always use sunscreen in conjunction with other forms of sun protection.

Sunscreen and nanoparticles

Nanotechnology has been used in sunscreens for many years. To date, our assessment, drawing on the best available evidence, is that nanoparticulates used in sunscreens do not pose a risk. However, we continue to monitor research and welcome any new research that sheds more light on this topic.

Sunscreen formulas and their components are regulated through the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). In early 2009, the TGA conducted an updated review of the scientific literature in relation to the use of nanoparticulate zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreens.

The TGA review concluded that:

  • the potential for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles in sunscreens to cause adverse effects depends primarily upon the ability of the nanoparticles to reach viable skin cells; and
  • to date, the current weight of evidence suggests that titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles do not reach viable skin cells; rather, they remain on the surface of the skin and in the outer layer of the skin that is composed of non-viable cells.

The TGA's report concerning the safety of sunscreens can be found at

Cancer Council looks closely at TGA’s advice, as well as our own evidence-based reviews.

Sunscreens also use ‘microfine’ or ‘micronised’ particles, which are larger than nanoparticles:

  • Nanoparticles are smaller than 100 nanometres and invisible to the human eye – a nanometre is 0.000001 millimetre.
  • Microfine particles are smaller than those used in conventional white zinc sunscreens, however are larger than nanoparticles – usually in the range of 100 to 2500 nanometres.

Sunscreen has been proven to reduce the risk of skin cancer, in particular non-melanomaskin cancer. Skin cancer claims more than 1,800 lives each year: we urge Australians to protect themselves from the sun in five ways – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

More information about sunscreen

For more information on sunscreen visit these websites.
Skin Health
Sunscreen calculator

Slap on a hat

Wear a hat that provides plenty of shade to your face, neck and ears; these are common sites for skin cancer. Choose a hat with closely woven fabric in one of the recommended styles for good protection.

Cancer Council recommends three styles of hats for good protection.

A broad brimmed hat with a brim width of at least 7.5 cm.
A legionnaire style hat where the back flap meets the side of the front peak.
A bucket hat with a deep crown that sits low on the head and has an angled brim, which is at least 6 cm wide.

Broad brimmed hat               Bucket hat                               Legionanaire hat


Seek shade

Using shade as much as possible when you are outdoors is an important strategy in protecting your skin. Shade from trees and man made structures (pergolas, buildings) provide protection from UV radiation, but do not totally block it out. UV radiation can still be reflected off the ground and buildings around you even under dense shade.

Always use shade as well as clothing, hats, sunglasses and sunscreen for maximum protection from UV radiation.

For more information on shade and planning shade for your site visit,

For more information about how much protection various shade structures provide, visit

Slide on sunglasses

Eyes can also be damaged by UV radiation. Damage includes degenerative changes, cataracts and pterygia.

Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye and are one of the most common types of eye damage in Australia, mostly due to sun exposure. Untreated cataracts can lead to blindness.

Choose sunglasses that wrap around the eyes and don’t let light in around the frames, especially at the sides, and make sure the frames fit close to the face.

Sunglasses are given an Eye Protection Factor (EPF), which is a guide to how much UV protection they provide.  The EFP is rated on a scale from one to 10. Sunglasses labelled EPF 10 provide almost 100 per cent UV protection. Sunglasses sold in Australia must meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067:2003.

All sunglasses must have a protection category label. Look for category two, three or four and/or a lens description that states “good UV protection”. Category zero and one are fashion glasses and provide only some UV protection. Polarised lenses reduce glare.

There is usually some sun protection information on the label. Look for the EPF or the protection category.

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