Skin health and protection

Ultraviolet radiation and the UV index

Ultraviolet radiation is the wavelengths of sunlight that are responsible for causing skin cancer and skin ageing.

Ultraviolet radiation doesn't feel hot and it's invisible. The amount of ultraviolet radiation reaching your skin can be very high even on a cool or cloudy day.

UV radiation is strongest in the middle of the day in the summer months, but it can be high enough to increase skin cancer risk in cooler months. You can’t see or feel UV radiation. Clouds do not block UV radiation. The intensity of ultraviolet radiation depends mainly on how close the earth is to the sun. This is influenced by the time of year and the time of day.

When the UV index is 3 or higher, the amount of ultraviolet radiation is sufficient to increase the risk of skin cancer.  In Melbourne between September and May, the UV index reaches 3 on most days.

During times of high UV levels, reduce your exposure to UV radiation from the sun by:

  • Covering your skin with sun-protective clothing (including long sleeves and pants)
  • Wearing broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or above, and reapplying regularly
  • Wearing a hat that protects your face, head, neck and ears
  • Staying in shaded areas when possible
  • Using sunglasses that wrap around and fit close to the face. If you wear prescription sunglasses check with your optometrist that they offer UV protection.

SunSmart poster: Think UV, not heat

The SunSmart app

To keep track of the UV level every day, and notify you of the exact times you need to be careful about sun exposure, we recommend the SunSmart app for smartphones. It provides useful information and functions such as:

  • the forecast and current UV index
  • recommended amount of sunscreen to apply to different body areas
  • tips on sun protection
  • general information about UV radiation

You can set a notification so that the app reminds you at the exact time the UV index reaches 3, so you know when to apply sunscreen.

Today's UV index

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