When you think of Australia in the summertime, you mainly think of the four ‘S’s’ – sun, sand, surf and sea. But for many of us, there’s a fifth one too. Sticks. As in zinc sticks.
Australia's love affair with the humble zinc stick began back in 1940, when Adelaide pharmaceutical firm Fauldings rolled the first ever zinc oxide based sunscreen off the factory assembly line. Since then, it’s become a sun safety staple for so many Australian families heading out and about in the warmer months.
It has taken many forms over the years, from bright, big fluorescent streaks to being blended into the cheeks, but its strong water and weather repelling properties have remained the same.
Whether you enjoy the adrenaline rush of wild surf sessions and extreme outdoor sports, or you just like a bit of backyard cricket and a leisurely aquatic activity, a zinc stick should be one of your summer essentials if it isn’t already. Keep reading to learn why…
1. It’s High UV Index Season
Australia is the home of the heatwave. Summertime Down Under is a sought after experience for travellers chasing the scorching sun, but it also comes with a high risk of burns and bushfires.
Because we are situated close to the equator and the hole in the ozone layer, we have some of the highest levels of UV radiation in the world. Our summer months tend to be made up of lots of clear, blue-sky days, meaning it’s easy to become overexposed to the sun’s rays – and you can burn in under 20 minutes!
From December to February, the Earth’s orbit draws the sun close to our continent, and some parts of the country can experience record-breaking temperatures of over 40° celsius. According to skin specialist Dr Ahmad Hasanien, the UV index can rise by as much as 7%, meaning our chances of developing nasty skin cancers like melanoma have increased too.
With a zinc stick, however, you’ve got broad-spectrum, pocket-sized protection in the palm of your hand! Combining the UV-blocking powers and general skin health benefits of zinc oxide with water-resistant waxes, it will provide your skin with a powerful shield and endure the sun, sweat, wind and waves with ease.
2. It’s Peak Beach Season
When the weather really warms up, there’s one place every Aussie and their dog will flock to – the beach. Be it a tourist frequented town by the beach on the rugged coast, a secluded inlet further inland or a strip of sand in the shadow of a city skyline, there’s nothing better than cooling off in nature’s own big saltwater bath.
There are loads of ways you can while away the time, from the very extreme to the very easy, depending on what takes your interest and your skill level and confidence in the water. If you’ve got good balance and are able to stand up and steer, surfing and paddle boarding is a must-do activity. For the even more adventurous, give kitesurfing or windsurfing a go.
If you prefer to lie down and let the waves and whitewash give you a nudge, boogie boarding or body surfing is perfect. Even less arduous things to do include having a picnic, building a sandcastle, burying a friend in the sand, going for a walk and collecting rocks and seashells.
It’s easy to end up spending an entire day or afternoon at the beach, so it’s no wonder zinc sunscreen gets a workout in these conditions. Just remember to reapply it every 2 hours or after swimming / drying off.
3. It’s Pro Sports Season
Zinc is at its most fashionable when worn by a sporting star, and summer is the season to show it off. So many major events get underway in December – February, kicking off with the cricket.
From the T20 World Cup to the Boxing Day Test to the Big Bash League, there’s plenty of bat swinging, wicket hitting action on display. Another iconic look on display is the zinc stick, proudly smeared over the lips and noses of some of the game’s best batters and bowlers. These include late greats Shane Warne, Andrew Symonds and Dean Jones (whose death inspired the tribute #ZincUpForDeano), and current players like Steve Smith, David Warner, Tim Paine, Virat Kohli, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Starc, Ellyse Perry and Meg Lanning.
The Australian Open in Melbourne is a key calendar event, with many matches played in open roof arenas, whilst Adelaide’s Santos Down Under cycling race is held entirely outside. The NBL and Super Rugby tournaments take place all around the country, plus there’s the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Great Lakes Pro surfing comp at Boomerang Beach, NSW.
At these events, both competitors and crowds slip, slop, slap their way through the day. It’s also when AFL players do pre-season training, and many famous faces from the code have been seen sporting coloured zinc over the years, from Bryce Bibbs and Harry Taylor, to Matt Rowell and Hamish Hartlett.
4. It’s The Festive Season
The arrival of summer also signals winding up at work and gearing up for the holidays. As everyone starts to get out and about more to enjoy some well earned time off, this is when we Aussies like to picnic in the park and BBQ in the backyard or by the beach.
Christmas feasts in Australia are all about seafood, salads, cold meats and cream cakes, whilst the attire is Hawaiian shirts with board shorts and sunnies with sandals.
Engaging in outdoor entertaining also means more hours spent in the sun, so more of a chance of sunburn. Therefore, a zinc stick is a handy addition to your handbag or backpack whilst you are on the go.
For those still racking their brains for a great Christmas gift idea, again, look no further than the zinc stick. Sustainably packaged in a biodegradable paper push-up tube and suitable for sensitive skin, they’d make a great, sun safe stocking filler for any friend or member of the family still left on your shopping list.