Slip, slop, slap, seek, slide has been a key message during Australian summers for generations.
The iconic sun protection campaign reminds us to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunnies. But with summer holidays ahead, the Cancer Council has urged Aussies to be cautious about how they slop on their sunscreen, following new research by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
The new research shows aerosol sunscreens are putting Aussies at risk of sunburn, with the products making it difficult to get sufficient levels of UV protection.
“Our advice in the first instance is to avoid using aerosol sunscreen products, however if it is your preference, then exercise great caution,” SunSmart’s Heather Walker said.
“The packaging advises consumers to ‘use liberally’ or ‘apply generously’ which is open to interpretation and leaves them vulnerable.
“Even literally saturating your body with the product may not provide the level of protection you expect.”
QUT research found the spray times required for aerosol sunscreens to achieve the level of UV protection stated on the packaging ranged from 4 to 14 seconds per limb or 29 to 98 seconds for a full body application. But researchers warned spray times would be significantly longer when used in everyday situations such as the beach.
Based on nine popular commercially available aerosol sunscreen products – some only contained less than half sunscreen.
Dr Rick Tinker, director of assessment and advice for the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), said discrepancies between aerosol brands makes it difficult for consumers to know how much sunscreen they are actually applying.
“Three of the aerosols tested could only adequately cover two full body applications – not enough to protect a family,” Mr Tinker said.
“To account for the variations between aerosol brands, the product would also need to be applied in larger quantities to be on the safe side.
“Using a cream or a lotion is likely to be a more reliable way of ensuring adequate coverage is achieved.”
Nearly 2000 people die every year from skin cancer in Australia, one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
The Australian Government estimates nearly one person every 30 minutes was diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, this year.
Despite its prevalence, skin cancer is almost entirely preventable with good sun protection.
“Regardless of sunscreen type, sunscreen should always be considered the last line of defence after protective clothing, a broad-brim hat, wrap-around sunglasses and shade,” Ms Walker said.