For an adult, the recommended application is 5ml (approximately 1 teaspoon full) for each arm, leg, body front, body back and face (including neck and ears). That equates to a total of 35ml (approximately 7 teaspoons full) for a full body application.
Can I still get sunburned if I apply sunscreen?
One of the most common consumer complaints is that of people being sunburnt even after applying sunscreen. When this happens, invariably the consumer suspects that there is something wrong with ‘that particular batch of sunscreen’ or that ‘there are insufficient active ingredients in the sunscreen’.
The manufacture of sunscreens is strictly regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) of Australia , and part of this process is that all batches of sunscreen that are produced are thoroughly tested to ensure that the TGA approved formula is adhered to and that the quantity of approved active ingredients is present before they are released to the public.In all cases that have been investigated, where a consumer has been sunburned after applying sunscreen, it has invariably been found to be due to applying insufficient sunscreen and/or not reapplying sunscreen often enough.The labels of most sunscreen products include statements such as “reapply frequently”
or “reapply generously after 2 hours exposure“
. Cancer Council sunscreen labels even go one step further. By stating in the DIRECTIONS, “1 teaspoon full per body part, per application, which equates to 35mls (or approximately 7 teaspoons full) for a full body application for an average sized adult” we are trying to better quantify the minimum amount of sunscreen that should be used and to impress upon the consumer the importance of using sufficient sunscreen. That means that a normal 110ml tube of sunscreen is only sufficient for 3 full adult body applications!
In theory, this should mean that sunscreens will continue to provide adequate protection from sun burn if applied as directed
. However, there are a number of well-known variables which could affect the ability of the sunscreen to protect users from sun burn. Among the variables that can cause the ‘dilution’ or removal of sunscreen on the skin are a variety of physical activities such as surfing, water skiing, swimming, towelling, wiping, perspiring, putting on and taking off of clothing, applying sunscreen to wet or sandy skin, etc. That is why it is imperative
that sunscreens be RE-APPLIED at least EVERY 2 HOURS
irrespective of the water resistance rating of the sunscreen. Some sunscreens in European countries and elsewhere have SPF ratings much higher than 30+, for example SPF 60 and even SPF 100, so why are there no such sunscreens available for sale in Australia?Firstly, SPF testing protocols are, unfortunately, not universal. Therefore SPF ratings on UK/EU sunscreens cannot be compared directly with SPF ratings of Australian/NZ sunscreens. The SPF rating for Australian/NZ sunscreens is determined ‘post immersion’ using an Australian standard method which subjects the sunscreen to the SPF test after it is applied to the skin AND after immersion in turbulent water under controlled standard conditions.
On the other hand, UK/EU SPF test protocol is ‘pre immersion’, which means that the sunscreen is SPF tested, without the skin surface that has had the sunscreen applied to it, being immersed in turbulent water BEFORE the SPF test. In other words the Australian SPF test protocol is more robust than the UK/EU procedure and more relevant to Australian conditions.Secondly, Cancer Council and other health promotion bodies in Australia/NZ are concerned that the raising of claimable SPF greater than the current 30+ numeral designation may give people a false sense of security and encourage much longer exposure to the sun, with the likelihood of further burning incidents and increased skin cancer risk.
It is considered that an SPF factor of 30+ is more than enough protection against sunburn under normal conditions of exposure and time and that to increase the SPF numeral above 30 may do more harm than good. Therefore, TGA regulations do not permit SPF factor numerals greater than 30 to be claimed on sunscreen labels. Notwithstanding this, all broad spectrum SPF 30+ rated sunscreen formulations in Australia/NZ will have an SPF rating greater than 30 but the exact rating numeral cannot be claimed, hence the use of the designation 30+ which means that the sunscreen has an SPF factor greater than 30.
Is the use of sunscreen, when outdoors, sufficient protection to reduce the risk of permanent skin damage and skin cancer?
Health promotion bodies will continue to stress that the use of sunscreen is no substitute for other sensible sun protection measures, and that sunscreens should always be used in conjunction with precautions including staying out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and covering other exposed parts of the body when out in the sun.
What regulations are there for sunscreens in Australia?
The manufacture of sunscreens is strictly regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) of Australia , and part of this process is that all batches of sunscreen that are produced are thoroughly tested to ensure that the TGA approved formula is adhered to and that the quantity of approved active ingredients is present before they are released to the public.