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The Cancer Council recommends 35ml of sunscreen to be applied 20 minutes before exposure and 2 hourly thereafter except when swimming when it should be after drying off and to store sunscreen below 30C and definitely not in a car.
Think about it. Mum, dad and 2 kids go to the beach for the day, say 9 - 5. That means 4+ doses each (4 x 2 hours + 20 mins) using, say 1/2 dose for kids; 35mls x 4 x 3 = 420mls. But the kids, and mum and dad go swimming so need extra applications; even one more means a total of 560mls. At the Cancer Council shop charge of $39.95 per litre pack it is going to cost $22 for the day. And then the sunscreen has to be kept below 30C in the car and at the beach. Let’s hope the ice pack doesn’t melt too soon.

Practically, the recommendations are nearly impossible and too costly to follow. Sunscreens need to be able to be safely stored in a car and made much less expensive if they are to be used as recommended.

BTW Highlighting 4 hours water resistant on the front of the pack but recommending reapplying after swimming or every 2 hours is misleading.


Hi @valtiree, I know what you mean about the cost, I was thinking similar thoughts the last time I picked up one of the 1L pump packs. I’m sure I’ve seen Surf Lifesaving providing free sunscreen at beaches, but this isn’t going to solve all the problems as you have noted.

I’d also like to see flap hats make a comeback rather than baseball caps, which will help protect the neck as well.

The packaging claims are another problem, and thanks for highlighting it here. I’ll be sure to pass on the info to my colleagues.


Weren’t baseball caps meant to protect the neck @BrendanMays? Does this means kids have been wearing them wrong all this time? :slight_smile:

I’ve seen the flap hats, and legionnaire caps made out of lycra being worn at the beach. They seem more suited to our climate.


We use Woolworths Select 1L pump pack SPF50+ sunscreen which is $9.00, which is under a quarter of the price of the Cancer Council one. And have found it satisfactory and not too greasy like some of the other ‘budget’ ones.

We tend to go through a lot of suncreen but try an minimise its use by wearing long sleeve and longer leg/swim wear/clothing, hats, sunglasses and try to keep out of direct sunlight unless it can be avoided (sit under shade or take our own).

Note that the bottle states it is for 28 applications (~36 gms per application)…assume this is for head to toe application and our bottle lasts for many months with using complementary sun clothing.

We however also try and not be in the midday sun (do other things out of the sun from about 10am to 2pm).

We also don’t teapply every 1-2 hours as recommended but reapply between morning and afternoon ‘sessions’. I am not sure why the reapply frequency is so high but might be about litigation rather than efficacy… …and maybe to add additional sunscreen to areas where the first application has been light.

We have friends who use aerosol spray sunscreen and have got burnt when we haven’t and think that many, including our friends, think aerosol sprays allow ecomonical coverage…without realising a minimum amount is required to obtain the stated SPF rating. Maybe one would need to use a can or more per day per family to meet minimum application rate and the 1-2 hour reapplication. Our friends can lasts for many weeks which suggests underapplicarion.

The back of the pack provides similiar recommendations to that of the CC one…


@valtiree I agree about the misleading labelling & the cost, even though we use cheaper ones.

I have long held the view that the reapply after being in water was just the manufacturers trying to get us to use more, because surely they couldn’t make the claim about water resistance unless it was verified :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:.

The other thing with sunscreens is the shelf life, and needing to buy a new batch every year, regardless of how much is left over from last summer.


Seems to me sunscreen is probably priced according to how how people actually use it, rather than if it was used per recommendation. Has there ever been a realistic study of sunscreen use, water/time/etc effects, effectiveness of ‘out of date’ product, etc? I’m sure this is heavily dependent on skin type as well, so recommendations based on worst case etc.

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@meltam, the kids must have been right all along :joy:. We had legionnaires hats at school but they were none too popular.

Thanks for that info @phb, such big price differences occurring. I’ll flag it with the content team.

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I don’t know for sure, and would love to have this confirmed, but I always imagined that “reapply after swimming”, regardless of whether the sunscreen was water resistant or not, was due to using a towel to dry off after swimming, which would either wipe off the majority of the sunscreen I applied or at least put big, random, invisible holes in my earlier coverage.

The whole sunscreen/SPF thing is surrounded in mystery. Why say 4 hours water resistant and yet recommend reapplying after a swim - towel dry or not.
I’ve asked skin specialists and the Cancer Council but none could tell me whether sun exposure times are cumulative or not. there’s a PHD for someone!

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The police would be pleased to see Legionnaire’s or flap hats rather than the baseball caps that are part of their uniforms


Good point @valtiree!

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Am I right in thinking that ‘greasy’ sunscreens, often labelled ‘sport,’ should last longer when in and around water than non-greasy ones? I would be interested in seeing this tested, especially as greasy ones are often less expensive (e.g. an Aldi one labelled ‘Ultra sport’). I do an on-water sport that means getting at least part of me wet at training sessions and regattas. I use a greasy sunscreen and, for a full day regatta, reapply when I can’t feel the greasiness anymore. That might be two or three times, depending on how wet I get and how strong the sun.

I find the greasy ones block the pores of my skin and I tend to perspire more. Maybe the perspiration is the factor of a limited number of pores working harder or sweat accummuling on the skin surface as droplets (rather than a more even ‘sheen’ which evaporates more readily) giving the impression of more sweat.

I avoid greasy ones like the plague as they make me uncomfortable.

I would suspect that greasy or non-greasy may not have much of a factor in length of time protection in water…length of time would be possibly due to the water solubility of the active agents and the carrying lotion.

This article has useful info on sunscreens…


This is a good breakdown for the practicalities of suncream. I’m saddened there wasn’t a section talking about the negative effect of some of the active ingredients on reefs and other marine ecosystems. I try to avoid oxybenzone, being one of the main culprits of suncream damage to reefs.

A friendly reminder that to those who may be concerned about suncreams:

  • suncream does not have “dangerous chemicals” that are bad for your health. Suncream is tightly regulated, so buy ones that have the TGA tick of approval. ‘Natural’ or home-made suncreams are not regulated and usually damage you by toxicity from their ingredients or by increasing your cancer risk due to a lack of sun protection. Keep you and your family safe by using real suncream!

Yes, there has been an association between some specific sunscreen chemicals and impacts on aquatic life, including coral. It is also worth noting that not all sunscreens contain these impacting chemicals.

Maybe Choice could update its suncreen page to also include these potential impacts…


I’ll be sure to pass on this issue with sunscreen pills to our investigations team.


This is what the US Food and Drug Administration says about sunscreen pills.

In effect they are a sham by ’ misleading consumers, and putting people at risk.’


An article regarding Palau banning toxic sunscreens so as to protect their reefs.