Why do we burn more in New Zealand?

Why do we burn more in New Zealand?

Posted by Babu on 1st Mar 2021


Unfortunately, the sun in the southern hemisphere is particularly harsh. This can make outside adventures miserable during the warmer months.

We all know the dreaded feeling of getting home from a long day in the sun and having a bad case of sunburn set in. Fevers, aching, stinging and blistering are all feelings New Zealander’s know a little too well.


What causes sunburn?

Sunburn is caused by the exposure of UV light. UVB and UVA rays penetrate the skin causing redness, itching and irritation.

You may notice that some people redden far faster than others- particularly those that are fair-skinned. Your skin type can greatly influence your likelihood of experiencing sunburn. Fair skin has a lower concentration of melanin. Melanin is responsible for the dark pigmentation of your skin, also providing some sun protection.

Sunburn is not the only skin damage created by the sun. Long exposure to UVA and UVB rays can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer.


Why do we burn more in New Zealand?

New Zealanders are especially susceptible to sunburn. This is due to two factors of our environment:

  • The ozone layer over New Zealand is thinner. Unfortunately, due to decades of man-made gas emissions, the ozone layer over New Zealand has continuously thinned. The ozone layer is like the Earth’s personal sun protectant. The ozone layer’s role is to absorb the harmful UV rays that are sent from the sun.
  • New Zealand has cleaner air. Whilst having lower levels of air pollution is wonderful for our environment, it means we are less protected than other countries. Cleaner air means it is thinner, reducing the barriers between UV light and our skin.


Can you get sunburned on a cloudy day?

Yes. In fact many people get burnt MORE on a cloudy day. This is because people tend to skip applying sunscreen when the sun is hidden. 

Since sunburn is caused by UV light radiation, the presence of clouds, wind or cool temperatures does not mean you won't burn. 

Check the UV index on your weather app to more accurately determine the likelihood of experiencing sunburn. Remember- a high UV index means you should stay out of the sun and/or reapply sunscreen vigorously.


How do I avoid sunburn?

  • Wear sunscreen daily. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen generously and frequently to prevent both UVA and UVB rays from penetrating your skin. 
  • Stay out of the sun during peak. The sun’s radiation is harshest between 10am and 4pm. We understand sometimes this is unavoidable, but good to practice when possible. Bring along an umbrella or set up under a tree.
  • Cover up. Adding an extra thin layer whilst in the sun will make all the difference. Popping on a rash top, shirt or even a towel over your sun blocked body during peak hours will protect your skin.
  • Use UV protecting cosmetics and accessories. Sun protection can be found in the form of many items these days. Add an SPF rich moisturiser or foundation to your morning routine and pop on a wide-brimmed hat and some UV sunglasses for maximum sun protection.


Babu sunscreen is broad spectrum, protecting against UVA and UVB rays. Our sunscreen is proudly New Zealand made with an impressive 30+ SPF rating. Made with 100% natural ingredients, Babu sunscreen is safe for your little one and perfect for sensitive skin.

Unfortunately, sunburn is a very common part of the summer experience here in New Zealand. Since our part of the ozone layer is thinner, we must be more proactive in protecting our skin from UV light penetration. 

Remember to apply sunscreen generously and often, cover up and stay out of the sun in peak hours. These little steps could save you from skin cancers and other irreversible skin damage.

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