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How does sunscreen and SPF work?

Updated: Sep 26, 2022

What does SPF mean?

SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreen provides a screen, not a block. SPF relates to the amount of time it takes for ultraviolet (UV) to break through the screen.

For example, if it takes 10 minutes for your unprotected skin to show redness, then an SPF30 sunscreen correctly applied, in theory, will take 30 times longer or 300 minutes to burn. Keep in mind, it is hard to achieve this level of protection in real life. Your skin type, intensity of UV levels, swimming, drying yourself with a towel, and how thickly you apply sunscreen can affect the level of protection. Apply liberally every two hours or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. It is also important to apply 20 minutes before going into the sun.


Should I wear sunscreen everyday?

It is recommended that people apply sunscreen daily as part of a regular morning routine.

Yes! New policy on sunscreen use recommend that people apply it daily as part of a regular morning routine. A National Sunscreen Summit was held in Brisbane last year, at which representatives from Australia’s leading research, medical, public health and advocacy bodies examined the current evidence on sunscreen use.


The experts agreed that in Queensland everyone should apply sunscreen every day when the maximum UV level is forecast to be three or higher. All your sun exposure during the day adds up - such as walking to the car or bus on your way to work. These small amounts of exposure can cause damage to your skin over time.


Make sunscreen part of your morning routine, just like brushing your teeth.

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