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I Love a Sun-safe Country

Freya Petterson delves into the importance of slopping on sunscreen when you live in a country with one of the highest skin cancer ratings!

Australia has one of the highest rates of skin cancer around the world [1], so it goes without saying that sunscreen is taken pretty seriously here. Luckily, we are also a country with some of the strictest testing requirements for approving sunscreen. 

In Australia, sunscreens are classified into two categories: therapeutic sunscreen or cosmetic sunscreen. Therapeutic sunscreens are regulated as therapeutic goods and held to the standards required of any medication. Cosmetic products that are advertised to offer SPF protection as a secondary function, are not held to the same standards as therapeutic sunscreens.

All sunscreens in Australia that are proven to be reliable and safe for use are listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). Sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 4 and above are listed. SPF30 sunscreen filters 96.7% of UV radiation and SPF50 filters 98%[2]. Once SPF levels increase past 50, there is very little difference in improved efficiency. All therapeutic sunscreens in Australia are also regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). 

Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen every day when the UV Index is forecast to be 3 or above[3]. You can check the UV index forecast on any weather app (but your best bet for accuracy is the Bureau of Meteorology mobile app).

SAFETY TIP: Sunscreens should not be stored in temperatures exceeding 30 degrees[4]. Don’t leave sunscreen in your car during a hot day, because you’re at risk of lowering its effectiveness. 

As for sunscreen formulations, there are two accepted types: Mineral and Chemical sunscreen.

Mineral sunscreens work by forming a physical barrier to shield the skin from absorbing harmful UV rays. They are more likely to leave a white cast, and are, therefore, often the less preferred option for people with darker skin tones. 

Chemical sunscreens absorb UV and convert it into heat that can be safely released from the skin. They can be a good alternative if you have cosmetic concerns, however clinical studies conducted in 2020 concluded that chemical components were found in users’ blood at higher than accepted levels[5]. Chemical sunscreens are also more likely to irritate sensitive skin and are proven to be environmentally harmful. 

If you want to avoid purchasing environmentally harmful sunscreens, you might keep an eye out for products labelled as ‘reef safe’. This classification means that the sunscreen “contains only mineral UV-blocking ingredients like oxide and titanium dioxide,” as clarified by board-certified dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner [6]. More information about sunscreen and its effect on the environment can be found at

To help people find a sunscreen that best suits them, I have compiled a list of reef safe and ARTG regulated sunscreen recommendations:

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50

A lightweight facial sunscreen good for daily use and suitable for sensitive skin. The 50ml bottle retails for $35.95.

Nivea Sun Sensitive Protect SPF 50

This sunscreen provides high broad-spectrum protection for sensitive skin, suitable for daily use. Dermatologically tested and approved. The 50ml bottle retails for $14.49.

Ultra Violette Extreme Screen Hydrating Body and Hand SPF 50+ 

An all-purpose sunscreen that is sweat and water resistant. Boasts a highly moisturising formula ideal for dry skin. The 30ml bottle retails for $15.00.

SUNSLAYER Natural Physical Sunscreen Reef Safe SPF 50+

This all-purpose multi award-winning sunscreen is multifunctional, fulfilling the role of sunscreen, moisturiser, primer, and vitamin E treatment. Suitable for daily use. The 100ml bottle retails for $37.00.

Happy slip, slap, sloppin yall.

[1] “About Sunscreen.” Cancer Council, Accessed 10 June 2023.

[2] “About Sunscreen.” Cancer Council, Accessed 10 June 2023.

[3] “About Sunscreen.” Cancer Council, Accessed 10 June 2023.

[4] “About Sunscreen.” Cancer Council, Accessed 10 June 2023.

[5] American Academy of Dermatology Comments on Follow-up Study on Absorption of Sunscreen Ingredients, 21 Jan. 2020,

[6] “Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide.” Reef Safe Sunscreen Guide | Save the Reef, Accessed 10 June 2023.


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