Sunscreen isn’t a suit of armour

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift helps us stay Sun Smart by breaking down the difference between SPF30 and SPF50+ sunscreens.

SPF30 or SPF50+ sunscreen? Sure, there is a bigger number on the bottle – but many of us don’t understand the difference between the two.

SPF50+ sunscreens first hit the shelves in January last year, and along with it came the misconception that this new product is a suit of armour, the only protection from the sun one could ever need.

The reality is that SPF50+ sunscreen offers only marginally better UVB protection compared with SPF30. SPF50+ is not a suit of armour, and it doesn’t equate to an ability to spend any longer in the sun.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to adequate sun protection and SPF50+ needs to be applied every two hours, just as liberally as SPF30.

We also need to remember that sunscreen in isolation is not sufficient protection. Queenslanders should Slip on sun protective clothing, Slop on minimum 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.

You don’t need to rush out and buy SPF50+ sunscreen just because it has a bigger number. All sunscreens that are broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF30+ or above are suitable in reducing 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.

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