UVB, UVA – we see these abbreviations all over our sunscreen bottles, but how well do you know your ultraviolet radiation? As summer starts and you begin stocking up on sunscreen, be informed on what the label says before you buy it so that you know you’re receiving the right type of protection!
To break it down simply to start: we know that the sun emits ultraviolet radiation. What you might not know is that there are three wavelengths that make up ultraviolet radiation; UVC, UVB and UVA. Here’s what differentiates them:
These are short wavelength rays that are the most damaging type of UV radiation – lucky for us though, the ozone filters them through the atmosphere, which stops them from making it to the earth. No need to worry about these rays affecting our skin!
Now these are the ones that you need to start fretting about. As medium-wavelength rays, UVB is very active and are the reasons for delayed tanning as well as sunburn. However, they can’t penetrate beyond our superficial skin layers nor can they penetrate glass. This doesn’t mean that their effects aren’t long-reaching: in fact, they enhance skin aging as well contribute to the development of skin cancer. Be aware that UVB is usually present between April and October during 10am – 4pm.
The longest of the three wavelengths, these rays are the ones that reach humans the most. This is due to the fact that they penetrate glass, clouds and are present through the winter and during all daylight hours – that’s a lot of exposure! They’re the reason for our immediate tanning. Comparatively, they penetrate far deeper into our skin than UVB rays and likewise, lead to wrinkling, skin aging and skin cancers.
What does this mean for me?
To minimize these nasty effects of aging and skin cancer, wear a sun protectant daily. SPF represents protection against UVB only without addressing UVA. Typically, our faces are exposed to UVA rays 365 days a year, unless one lives everyday in a closed room without windows! To best minimize aging and skin cancer a sun protectant must contain ingredients that dampen or block UVA – personally, I prefer zinc. The best way to get all your protection at once? Use Likewise Moisturizing Defense.