In spite of a lot of government and health authority education, it's still possible to find many in Australia who are hazy about the sun, ultraviolet radiation and appropriate skin creams.
This is a big issue for everyone, irrespective of where they live in the world.
Even so, is particularly important for holidaymakers to keep in mind because there may be a tendency, for example, to arrive at your holiday accommodation then immediately strip down to your 'minimal clothing' configuration and head straight out into the sun!
So, here is a quick refresher – but do note it should not be read as qualified medical opinion or advice. If in doubt, consult your doctor.
Natural Ultraviolet Radiation (UV) is given off by the sun in three forms – UVA, UVB and UVC.
These are differentiated by their wavelengths and as the vast majority of UVC is stopped by the atmosphere, we will not mention it any further here.
UVA is known to be capable of penetrating glass or the skin to a fairly significant depth. UVB, by contrast, tends to be stopped by the outer skin layers or things such as glass etc.
It is UVB which is primarily responsible for redding or burning our skins when we are exposed to sunlight. UVA is typically the cause of tanning and it is the wavelengths associated with UVA that are typically used by tanning booths and other such artificial radiation-based tanning aids.
The connection between excess exposure to UVB and various forms of skin cancer has long been known.
More recently, scientists and health care professionals have also asked whether UVA is quite as innocuous as it was once assumed to be in terms of these risks. It is now accepted by many specialists that UVA also has a role to play in certain other forms of cancer and cellular abnormalities, given its ability to adversely affect cells at a greater depth inside the skin.
There is no universally agreed definition of what constitutes a safe or acceptable dose of either UVA or UVB. There are many variables here including your skin type, its background natural pigmentation and aspects of your basic genetic inheritance.
What is undisputed is that everyone needs to be aware of the risks associated with exposure to UV over and above the levels your body is equipped to deal with.
What you can do
Ultimately the best protection against excess exposure to this form of radiation is simply to stay out of direct sunlight. All around the world, the indigenous peoples in countries with hot climates will tend to stay in the shade as much as possible during the hottest parts of the day.
However, in the modern world and particularly when you are on holiday, that is not likely to be either possible or perhaps desirable.
Therefore, it is imperative to take some sort of preventive protection in the form of a barrier cream.
These are now available in many different formats but all will quote a SPF (Sun Protection Factor). The higher the SPF quoted is, the more protection the cream will provide.
At one time, such barrier creams were almost entirely restricted to UVB blocking but due to the increasing concern about the effects of UVA, today many healthcare professionals would recommend what is called a broad-spectrum barrier cream which will offer protection against both ranges of radiation Frequencies.
Once again, there is no universal agreement about what the minimum SPF required is because much will depend on the individual's own skin and genetic makeup.
However, many experts make the case that anything much below SPF 15 or 20 may be illegally to provide you with adequate protection and if you are specially fair skinned it may be advisable to use something considerably higher than that.