We all know to wear sunscreen when spending time outdoors. But, sunscreen should just be one part of your sun-smart tool-kit.

There’s nothing quite like enjoying a day in the sun. On the beach, at a cricket game, or out for a picnic with friends, there’s every excuse to get outside and soak up the rays.

Sadly, the most common form of cancer in New Zealand is skin cancer, so as much as we love the sun, we have a lot of work to do before we can say we’re enjoying it as safely as possible.

While many of us already know about the importance of applying sunscreen liberally and regularly – what about other ways to be sun smart?

Here are five actions you can take to better protect yourself from the sun.

1.Treat yourself to a great pair of sunnies

Sunglasses aren’t just there to make you look like a rock star – they can protect your eyes from the sun as well.

A good pair should wrap around your eyes, be close fitting, and have UV protection. Over time, UV rays can damage your eyes and could cause eye problems including macular degeneration, cataracts and corneal sunburn.

Everyone should wear a pair of sunglasses when outdoors, even babies!

2. Opt for more fabric, not less

‘Suns out, guns out’ is a catchy phrase, but it might just result in bright pink arms, a few days of very uncomfortable showers, and even skin damage.

Instead, opt for t-shirts over singlets, and long-sleeved tops as often as you can when out in the sun. Make sure the whole family wears rash shirts for swimming – especially kids who love to spend hours in the water.

Look for fabrics with a tight weave that can block out the UV rays on your skin. Also, darker colours typically give more protection.

It might not always be possible to wear lots of covering fabric in the heat of summer, but if you can find a nice light shirt to cover up during the most damaging hours of the day, your skin will thank you for it.

3. Don’t leave the house without a hat

A hat can protect areas of the face and neck that are difficult to cover properly with sunscreen, such as around the hairline and behind the ears.

In fact, the face and neck are the most commonly burnt parts of the body.

A cap is a good start, but opt for a full-brimmed hat for maximum sun protection whenever possible.

4. Take a midday siesta

UV radiation – the real culprit behind those nasty sunburns – is at its strongest throughout the middle of the day, typically from around 10am to 4pm.

SunSmart has a handy Sun Protection Alert, which tells you the exact times (by region) when you should be protecting your skin and eyes.

If possible, save that walk in the sunshine or other outdoor activity for earlier or later in the day to avoid spending time in the sun during the most dangerous hours.

Also, don’t let a cloudy day fool you! Around 80% of UV radiation can get through on a cloudy day.

While it won’t always be possible to rearrange your plans around avoiding the worst of the UV, it’s a good idea to keep it in mind when you do have the option.

5. Make a beeline for the shade

From the majestic pohutukawa to a bright beach umbrella, all shade is good shade when it comes to the sun.

You’ll still be nice and warm relaxing on a beach towel, but you’ll skip the worst of the sun’s damaging rays by staying out of direct sunlight.

What to do if sunburn strikes

Should the sun get the better of you, pick up a bottle of Crystasoothe.

This aloe vera burn gel helps to cool and relieve the pain of sunburn, and it can also be used for other minor burns – so it’s a handy item to have in the medicine cabinet at home.

Disclamer: This content is for informational purposes only and should not substitute advice from your healthcare professional. If symptoms persist or you require specialist advice, please consult your healthcare professional.

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