We all should know by now how dangerous sun exposure can be. We all should know how protecting our skin especially in the sun is a must. Yet, Australia seems to me to have brought this awareness a step further. Soon after my arrival, I noticed that basically all sunscreens have a high SPF (30 and above). The lowest SPF I could see around was 15 but I had to look a few times before finding it. This makes me wonder: is this a way to satisfy all those tourists or people from other countries who would look for low protection lotion, as that’s the way they are used to at home?
The lack of low SPFs surprised me as in Italy we have sun “protection” as low as…2. Being a mozzarella-skinned kind of girl, I need to protect my skin a lot. And in Italy when I had to buy a sun lotion I have always found very few options 50+ (and they are even lot more expensive than the lower spf ones). The shelves are packed of these 2, 6, 10, 15, 20 SPF products, and ridiculously, I almost feel like a freak for needing something “different”. You have no idea how many times in my life I have been mocked for having fair skin… nothing serious don’t get me wrong, things along the line of “No wonder you are so white! You are using 50+, you’ll never get tanned!”, “Are you REALLY Italian? With that skin I thought you were Nordic”, “Have you been on holiday for 2 weeks?? I can’t see any difference!”.
I got used to it. When I was younger it bothered me, but for years now I haven’t cared. I came to terms with the fact that I have fair skin and there is no need to obsessively and dangerously try to change it, the risks are real and sun does not always rhyme with fun. People should open their eyes more in this respect. And who cares if in the pictures I will always be the ghosty one! At least I won’t look like an old leather bag in my forties. LOL
In Australia, land of sun, I finally felt more understood. They really take the sun issue seriously, being ‘the skin cancer capital of the world’*, as the cancer council website describes it. The national non-government organisation has even created its own brand of sunscreens, which are very reliable in terms of broad spectrum protection. It is called CANCER COUNCIL
Other anti-sun measures I have notices are the cute uniforms of schoolchildren, which include large hats and posters at bus stop with very powerful messages.
I still remember this big picture of a lovely beach with the caption “2 in 3 of your friends will be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point of their lives”. OUCH. (campaign by Pretty Shady, you can see it here).
The best for me was when I went with my friend Claudius to the Newtown festival, a music festival held in a big park in this cool and alternative area of Sydney; we found this stand with FREE SUNSCREEN DISPENSERS. Can you see how clever this is? In case you forgot it at home, there you are: free, practical, easy.
And I have just discovered something even more powerful: Since 1st of January 2015 commercial solariums (sunbeds), which emit a high level of UV radiation (major cause of skin cancer), were BANNED nationwide* (with NSW being the first state in AUS and only second place in the world after Brazil, then WA catching up on the ban a bit late, on January 2016). Congrats Australia, for not being only words but for having taken concrete steps in this delicate matters.
PS: Just out of curiosity, I checked the website of NIVEA (the section sun protection), in three different countries: Italy, UK and Australia. Same brand, three different outcomes. In Italy, the SPF range starts from 0 (but they specified these products have “no protection”, no less!) continues with “low” (6 to 10), “medium” (15-25), “high” (30 – 50) and “very high” (50+). In UK, the lowest SPF is 10 and continues with 15, 20, 30 and 50+ (with no description of low, medium or similar) while in Australia, you guessed, it only offers 15, 30+, and 50+. Interesting, eh?
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