Be sun smart


As you embrace the New Zealand summer, it's vital to look out for your well-being under the Kiwi sun. Here are some sun safety tips crafted with people like you in mind to ensure you have a healthy and enjoyable summer.

As this webpage is quite long and full of tips, here is a list of the topics discussed. Feel free to read all of them or skip to the one you feel you need the most.

  1. Sun is great for your health, but only at a reasonable dose.
  2. Sunscreen: what it is, how to use it and how to choose it.
  3. Hydration: How to avoid dehydration
  4. The importance of sunglasses.
  5. Going under the sun for summer also means checking in with your skin.

The Sun is like chocolate; it is great for your health, but only at a reasonable dose.  

First, it is important to remember that the sun is crucial to people’s well-being. Indeed, not only is the sun one of our only sources of vitamins (specifically, vitamin D in this context) that is not obtained from food, but it also helps our bodies produce serotonin, resulting in more positive moods and relaxation (Mead, 2018). Similar research has also found that early exposure to sunlight helps our bodies produce melatonin at night faster, which has been found to facilitate faster sleep onset and contribute to overall better sleep quality. Finally, the sun has been found to lead to direct immune suppression, which may lead to autoimmune diseases later in life.

When venturing outdoors under our beautiful summer sunshine, spend some time in the shade. While various studies suggest different durations for sun exposure on a sunny day, most agree that 10 to 30 minutes of full sun exposure a day is the optimal option. Of course, this doesn't mean prolonged exposure to the sun is unadvisable; you can still enjoy our beautiful Kiwi summers with the right sun protection or by using the shade provided by our beautiful Pohutukawa trees.

Excessive direct sun exposure on your skin may lead to health problems. While skin cancer is the most widely discussed issue, sun exposure can also result in other health issues, such as accelerated aging, eye damage, or overexhaustion. At its worst, too much sun can cause heatstrokes, requiring urgent medical care as they occur when your body cannot regulate its temperature and it exceeds 40 degrees. More information about skin cancers and sun exposure can be found later in this webpage.

However, try not to worry too much while enjoying your summer, as one or two days of excessive sun exposure should not cause long-lasting harm. Like chocolate, the sun is beneficial if you don’t have too much of it.

Sunscreen is your best ally to fight against the sun.  

New Zealand is well known for its naturally high UV levels, which McKenzie and al. (2019) explain in three main points:

  • Earth's elliptical orbit brings it closest to the sun during New Zealand's summer months, December and January.
  • New Zealand's relatively pristine air quality contributes to less scattering of UV radiation by airborne pollution, ensuring that more UV radiation reaches the ground.
  • Over the summer months, our atmospheric ozone layer undergoes thinning, leading to reduced absorption of UV radiation.

To protect yourself from New Zealand's high UV levels, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and apply it 15-30 minutes before going outdoors. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, particularly if you're spending time at our stunning New Zealand beaches or participating in outdoor activities. If you plan to tan at the beach this summer, instead of completely avoiding sunscreen (which can realistically affect your ability to tan), extend your time at the beach while ensuring you always have sunscreen on to prevent your skin from turning sunburned pink rather than achieving the desired tan colour.

*The SPF number indicates the duration it would take for the sun's UV radiation to cause redness on your skin when the product is applied exactly as directed, compared to the time it would take without any sunscreen (Wang, 2023). In essence, with SPF 30, it would ideally take 30 times longer for your skin to burn than if you were not wearing sunscreen.

Whether it’s with a soda or water, remember to stay hydrated.  

When staying under the sun, it is crucial to remember to stay hydrated. Due to the substantial water content in the human body, dehydration can occur as the temperature rises, and the body sweats to regulate its temperature. While mild dehydration may seem harmless, the loss of water and salts can quickly impact your blood volume and blood pressure, especially if your body starts craving even a small amount of water. If you're not a fan of water, sodas, although not the best for hydration, can still provide some relief and are better than nothing.

Dehydration can escalate rapidly, so it's essential to stay attuned to your body. While early signs like thirst, dry mouth, and headaches are familiar, more advanced symptoms, such as a rapid pulse, complete lack of urination, or irrational behaviour, can be less noticeable.

It's crucial to note that if you decide to sip on a cocktail while sunbathing, be aware that alcohol can lead to dehydration more than anything else. Alcohol's diuretic properties increase urine production and fluid loss from the body, potentially intensifying the effects of sun exposure. Therefore, if you choose to enjoy alcoholic beverages, ensure you balance them with ample water intake to minimize the risk of dehydration.

In summary, wherever your summer adventures take you, keep that water bottle (or beverage of your choice) in your bag or next to you, ready to be sipped whenever needed.

Eyes on the horizon, protect your vision.  

Wearing sunglasses is not just a stylish accessory but also a crucial element in safeguarding your eye health. The importance of sunglasses extends beyond fashion, as they protect against the harmful effects of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Prolonged exposure to UV radiation can lead to various eye problems, including cataracts, macular degeneration, and photokeratitis.

When choosing sunglasses, it is important to consider the different types of lenses, the different Visible Light Transmission (VLT) and lens colours:

While polarized lenses are often the most popular due to their ability to reduce glare in bright conditions, photochromic lenses can also automatically adjust to changing light conditions. Glasses with interchangeable lenses may easily become a favorite for individuals who wear glasses daily, seeking to minimize the hassle and cost of switching between sunglasses based on light conditions.

Various sunglasses may also feature different Visible Light Transmission (VLT) percentages. When selecting sunglasses, it's essential to choose those with a VLT percentage between 1 and 40%. Percentages between 0 to 19% are ideal for bright conditions, while those between 20 to 40% are perfect for everyday sunlight.

Lastly, sunglasses typically come with two types of lenses: dark colors (such as brown, gray, and green) or light colors (like yellow, gold, and light pink). For everyday activities, professionals usually recommend darker colors as they cut through glare and reduce eyestrain. Light-colored sunglasses are more suitable for snow sports, which you might not be engaging in this summer unless you're finally going on the trip to Europe or Asia you and your mates have been discussing since you met. Good on you!

Additionally, consider sunglasses that cover a larger area, including the sides, to shield your eyes from indirect sunlight. Investing in quality sunglasses not only shields your eyes from potential damage but also contributes to the prevention of premature aging and wrinkles around the eyes. Remember, sunglasses are more than a fashion statement – they are a vital tool in preserving your eye health.

Practice after-care and check-in with your skin 

Staying sun safe also means being aware of the impact the sun is having on your skin. For example, while getting sunburnt occasionally is not a catastrophe, ensure it does not happen too often, as it can quickly start impacting your skin more than you think. Indeed, not only does too much exposure to the sun cause your skin to age up faster (and therefore cause wrinkles to appear), but it can also raise your risk for skin cancer.

If you’re under the sun a lot, remember to carefully check your skin for any new moles that may have popped up or are changing. Also, check your skin for a sore that is not healing or often starts randomly bleeding. provides many indicators for melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. But to keep it short, always Keep an eye on your skin for any changes, and if you're unsure, our University’s GPs and nurses are here to help. Your well-being matters, so don't hesitate to seek advice at the first slight worry.

Now that you’ve got all the tips needed, all you need is the sun to be out to enjoy your summer. Don’t worry. It can be a bit shy sometimes, but it will come out when ready!