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24th May 2024

‘No sunscreen can provide 100% protection’ – Myths and facts about keeping you and your little ones safe this summer

Sophie Collins


Do you know the extent of the importance of wearing sunscreen correctly? 

Along with other protective measures like covering up and seeking shade, being sun smart is essential to protect your skin from the sun and prevent skin cancer alongside your sunscreen.

Every year, over 11,000 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in Ireland, and the numbers are rising rapidly. 

Yet, skin cancer is largely preventable by protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. 

Dr. Breeda Neville, Specialist in Public Health at HSE NCCP, stresses that sun cream should be the last line of defence in sun protection. 

“No sunscreen can provide 100% protection. It should be used alongside other protective measures such as clothing and shade,” she says. 

Follow the SunSmart 5S’s

Protect your skin by following these SunSmart guidelines:

  1. Slip on Clothing: Cover as much skin as possible with long sleeves and collared t-shirts.
  2. Slop on Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen: Apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30+ for adults and 50+ for children. Ensure it offers high UVA protection and is water-resistant. Reapply regularly.
  3. Slap on a Wide-Brimmed Hat: Protect your face, ears, and neck.
  4. Seek Shade: Stay under trees, use a sunshade on your buggy or pram, and keep babies and children out of direct sunlight.
  5. Slide on Sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with UV protection to guard your eyes.

Additionally, avoid deliberate tanning, prevent sunburn, and never use sunbeds.

Applying Sunscreen Correctly

Dr. Aoife Lally provides key tips for application: “Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30+, high UVA protection, and water resistance. 

“Reapply regularly, especially after swimming or exercise. Apply generously and use more than you think you need. 

“Remember, using sunscreen doesn’t mean you can stay in the sun longer. Always cover up with a hat, clothing, sunglasses, and seek shade, particularly during peak sunshine hours. 

“Sunscreen is for protecting skin not covered by clothing or shade.”

For babies up to 6 months old, it’s better to protect them from sunlight with shade and clothing rather than sun cream. 

You may use UV-protective clothing and apply sunscreen only on small exposed areas.
For more information on how to protect yourself and your family this summer, visit the SunSmart hub and follow #SunSmart on social media.


Myth: SPF is only necessary on sunny days.
Truth: UV rays can penetrate clouds, meaning you can still get sunburned on cloudy or overcast days. It’s important to wear sunscreen every day, regardless of the weather.

Myth: A higher SPF means you don’t need to reapply sunscreen.
Truth: No matter the SPF, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, or more frequently if swimming or sweating. Higher SPF provides more protection, but it does not last longer than lower SPF.

Myth: Sunscreen causes Vitamin D deficiency.
Truth: Sunscreen can reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D, but it does not block it completely. You can get sufficient vitamin D through a balanced diet and supplements if necessary.

Myth: SPF creams cause acne.
Truth: Some sunscreens may cause breakouts, but there are many non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores) formulas available. Look for sunscreens labeled as oil-free or specifically designed for the face if you have acne-prone skin.

Myth: You only need sunscreen when you are outdoors.
Truth: UV rays can penetrate windows, so you can be exposed to harmful rays even when indoors or in a car. It’s beneficial to wear sunscreen daily, even if you plan to stay inside.

Myth: One application of sunscreen in the morning is enough for the whole day.
Truth: Sunscreen effectiveness wears off after a few hours. It’s essential to reapply every two hours, especially if you are outdoors, sweating, or swimming.