We often associate the need for sun protection with blistering hot summer days, forty degree weather, the beach and long days outside. We think of putting on sunscreen before a day by the pool or slipping on a hat before going out to the park for a barbeque in December, however, sun protection can be just as important in the cool days of early spring as it is in the height of summer.

Why is sun protection so important in spring?

It is common knowledge for most Australians that exposure to the sun is the major cause of skin cancer worldwide. Ultraviolet or UV radiation is a type of energy that the sun produces that can damage your skin cells and DNA and cause skin cancer. The most deadly of these is melanoma skin cancer which causes almost 2000 deaths per year in Australia.

The strength of UV radiation is measured by the UV index, which is a range that classifies the amount of UV radiation people might be exposed on any given day. Radiation levels between 0-2 are considered ‘low’ and anything over 11 is considered ‘extreme’. For any day that has a UV index of 3 or higher sun protection is advised.

In Spring the average UV index in major Australian cities is over this level. September in Sydney, which is very early spring, has an average UV index of 5! October shoots up to 8 and November is already averaging levels of 10. Looking at other cities Melbourne averages a UV index of 5 in September while Perth reaches 6 and Brisbane is 8.

It is important to realise that the sun can damage your skin at any time of the year and that just because a day is cloudy or cool, doesn’t mean that UV radiation can’t reach up to dangerous levels. With average UV levels over 3 in spring across Australia, it is vital to start thinking about sun protection all year round.

What are the best ways to protect yourself from the sun in spring?

Protecting yourself from the sun in spring is the same as in summer, whenever you go outside make a habit of revising the slip, slop, slap, seek and slide rule.

  • Slip on protective clothing that will cover up exposed skin.
  • Slop on protective sunscreen that has an SPF of 30+.
  • Slap on a hat that covers up as much of the head, ears, neck and face as possible.
  • Seek shade during the height of UV radiation levels.
  • Slide on a pair of sunglasses that protect against UV radiation.

Like looking at the weather forecast you should also make sure that you check the UV index for the day, particularly on days when you feel unsure of how dangerous the sun might be. The best way to check UV levels in Australian cities is to look it up on the Bureau of Meteorology website.