Slip, Slop, Slap, Sizzle? We’re doing it wrong.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift shows us how to get sun protection right.

Sunscreen is the most common form of sun protection used by children and by parents for children – it’s a worry to think that we’re applying it wrong and putting our young ones at risk of skin cancer.

A report by JAMA Dermatology* shows there is definitely room for improvement in the way sunscreen is used, with many children applying substantially less than required to get adequate protection from the sun.

Because there is a linear relationship between the thickness of application and the SPF, this may result in substantially lower SPF than stated on the bottle. You might think you’re doing the right thing by stocking up on SunSmart products, but you might be letting yourself down when it comes to proper application.

We know that regular use of sunscreen during childhood reduces lifetime risk of skin cancer – so we need to do this right.

For starters, relying on sunscreen as a stand-alone primary prevention method just doesn’t work. Queenslanders should Slip on sun protective clothing, Slop on SPF30 or above broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, Slap on a broad-brimmed hat, Seek shade and Slide on wrap-around sunnies to best reduce their skin cancer risk.

It’s also important to apply the product properly to protect yourself from the sun. Use at least one teaspoon of sunscreen per limb, front and back of the torso, and half a teaspoon on the face and neck. A uniform coverage of sunscreen at a greater thickness will give you the best protection.

Queensland has the highest rates of skin cancer in the world, and we know increased sun exposure in childhood contributes significantly to the risk of developing cancer later in life.

In Queensland, around 136,000 new skin cancer cases are diagnosed each year (3000 melanoma and 133,000 non-melanoma skin cancers).

There are no shortcuts when it comes to adequate sun protection. Take care in preparation for outdoor activity, reapply every two hours, and remember that one method of protection is never enough!

More information about Cancer Council Queensland and being SunSmart is available at or via the Cancer Council Helpline 13 11 20.

*Diaz A, Neale RE, Kimlin MG, Jones L, Janda M. The Children and Sunscreen Study: A Crossover Trial Investigating Children’s Sunscreen Application Thickness and the Influence of Age and Dispenser Type. Arch Dermatol. 2012;148(5):606-612. doi:10.1001/archdermatol.2011.2586.