We've been using sunscreen wrong, according to new research

HANDS up who doesn't put sunscreen on themselves or their child during winter?

Well, you could be putting your skin at risk according to groundbreaking new research.

In a world-first study, scientists from the Australian National University and New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmosphere Research measured UV levels over the course of a full day.

What they found was surprising, even to them.

They studied the UV levels in Melbourne and on New Zealand's South Island.

Contrary to what we've been led to believe, the UV level in cities like Melbourne were found to be low enough to not get sunburnt on only two days of the whole year.

The rest of the time, skin is being exposed to potentially burning rays and in a shorter time-frame than was expected.It has previously been thought, and recommended by health authorities, that sun protection was needed only when the UV rating reached 3 or above.

This research challenges that assumption.

Robyn Lucas at the ANU told the Canberra Times that further north the UV levels were even stronger.

"I would suspect there would be no days in Canberra [and most of Australia] where you can't get sunburnt," Professor Lucas said.

"But I was surprised by the shortness of the time [we found] it took to actually get sunburnt."

Alexandra, on New Zealand's South Island was also measured and the results showed a similar pattern.

For a type-two person with fair European skin, burning could still occur within 45 minutes to an hour outdoors on a low-UV day.

For a type-one, such a redhead, the time would be even less.

30 minute window even in winter
"Someone pale... would burn in say 30 minutes [in winter]," Professor Lucas said.

"Most people think if it's cold and they're covered, they're fine, but your face and hands are still exposed and those are the most common places for skin cancer."

So, while the slip, slop, slap message may be getting through on those 30C summer days, it's the winter days that are also doing damage.

Getting enough Vitamin D is of course an important consideration, but being outside on a low UV index day for more than 10-15 minutes could be putting your skin at risk of burning.

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.

News Corp Australia

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