SunSmart D.I.Y.: protect your skin from UV damage

Did you know that more Australians get sunburnt while doing chores or activities around the home than they do at the beach? While these days most Australians remember to be SunSmart when they are about to hit the waves and sand, too many of us forget to protect our skin when we are working on outdoor D.I.Y. projects in own backyard. Whether you are cleaning the gutters, painting the awning or building a new retaining wall, it’s just as important to protect your skin from harmful UV radiation to reduce your risk of skin cancer as it is when hitting the local pool.

Sun protection

Sun protection is generally recommended whenever UV levels are 3 or above. But if you’re outdoors for extended periods at lower UV levels, sun protection is important then, too. And if you work outdoors all year round it’s recommended you use sun protection all the time. That’s because UV exposure adds up over time, increasing your risk of skin damage.

With two in three of us expected to be diagnosed with skin cancer in our lifetime, outdoor handy work is one of the key times Australians put themselves at risk.

UV levels

It is important to take breaks from the sun and ideally you should try to plan your D.I.Y. activities for early in morning and in the evening when UV levels are generally lower than 3 but this might not always be possible.

Cancer Council has some important advice to help you apply sunscreen correctly and use proper sun protection measures to ensure your skin stays protected from UV damage.

How to protect yourself from the sun when doing D.I.Y.?

It’s pretty simple – just follow SunSmart’s 5 S’s: Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide:

Slip on some sun-protective clothing that covers as much skin as possible. If working outdoors choose a long sleeve, lightweight shirt to protect your arms. 

Slop on broad spectrum, water resistant SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen – and make sure you reapply it regularly, at least every two hours.

Slap on a hat. Make sure it’s broad brim or legionnaire style to protect your face, head, neck and ears.

Seek shade (where possible). This might mean setting up a tarp to work under or setting up workstations under existing shade like trees or the back patio, but remember you will still need sun protection even if undercover outdoors. 

Slide on some sunglasses making sure they meet Australian Standards, wrap around style are best to prevent UV entering in the sides.

Damily sitting at the beach wearing sunscreen and hats

How to apply sunscreen

To correctly apply your sunscreen, Cancer Council recommends the following steps:

1. Apply before you go outside: sunscreen should be applied liberally to clean, dry skin 20 minutes before exposure to UV. You need 20 minutes because the active ingredients in sunscreen sit in a liquid emulsion, and this time allows for the liquid to evaporate, leaving the active, protective ingredients on your skin. 

2. Apply enough: for adults, the recommended application is 5ml (or about one teaspoon) or each arm, leg, body front, body back and face, including your neck and ears. That’s approximately seven teaspoons or 35ml for a full body application. 

3. Remember to re-apply and cover up: it’s so important to reapply your sunscreen every two hours, as well as after sweating or rubbing the skin. Never rely on sunscreen alone, make sure you use it with other forms of sun protection, including long/covering clothing and a broad brim hat. 

4. Find a sunscreen you like: for the best protection, Cancer Council recommends using sunscreen that is SPF30 or higher with broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. There are the two types of harmful ultraviolet radiation that contribute to the risk of skin cancer. If you are swimming or sweating, water resistance is crucial. 

These days there are lots of different sunscreens available to suit all sorts of different activities – including outdoor work. Try finding a sunscreen you enjoy applying and one that feels good on your skin as you will be more likely to use it regularly.

Cancer Council Work SPF50+ sunscreen

Cancer Council Work SPF50+ sunscreen is designed especially for outdoor work and gardening. Providing SPF50+, broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, Work sunscreen is formulated with mineral silica, making it dry touch. That means dirt and dust won’t stick to your skin when you have it on. It also helps you maintain a non-slip grip when using power tools, climbing ladders, using garden tools, climbing the roof and so on. 

Work sunscreen dries rapidly and does not contain titanium dioxide and zinc oxide – the ingredients known to react with coated metals. 

Plus, it’s oil and fragrance-free so it’s great for a range of skin types.

Get SunSmart

You can find Cancer Council Work SPF50+ sunscreen at your local Bunnings.

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Health & Safety

Please make sure you use all equipment appropriately and safely when following the advice in these D.I.Y. videos. You need to be familiar with how to use equipment safely and follow the instructions that came with the equipment. If you are unsure, you may feel it is safest to consult an expert, such as the manufacturer or an expert Bunnings Team Member.

Grave health hazards are linked to asbestos, which may be in homes built up to 1990. Health hazards may result from exposure to lead-based paints in older materials and copper chromium arsenic (CCA) treated timber. For information on the dangers of asbestos, lead-based paint and CCA treated timber and tips for dealing with these materials contact your local council's Environmental Health Officer or visit our Health & Safety page. You can also use a simple test kit from Bunnings to indicate the presence of lead-based paint.
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