Suncreams have long protected against UVB rays, but recently scientists discovered that UVA also has an important role to play in increasing the risk of skin cancer.
Unfortunately, not all sunscreens have caught up just yet, and you’ll still find many of them only protect agains UVB.
The SPF rating only refers to UVB, so you need to check for the UVA 5 star ratings – a star rating of 3 or over offers good protection.
Facts about UVA and UVB
Both UVA and UVB, penetrate the atmosphere and play an important role in premature skin ageing, eye damage and skin cancer. They also suppress the immune system, reducing your ability to fight off disease.
Most of us are exposed to large amounts of UVA throughout our lifetime. UVA rays account for up to 95% of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. They are present with equal intensity throughout the year, and can penetrate through clouds and glass.
UVA rays also penetrate skin more deeply than UVB, and play an important part in skin ageing and wrinkling. UVA damages skin cells called keratinocytes in the basal layer of the epidermis, and so contributes to development of skin cancers.
Critically, UVA is used as the main tanning ray, and we now know that sun beds are a significant cause of melanoma, A tan is the result of injury to the skin’s DNA; the skin darkens in an imperfect attempt to prevent further DNA damage. These imperfections, or mutations, can lead to skin cancer.
UVB is the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn and damages the skin’s superficial layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and a contributory role in tanning and photoaging. Its intensity varies by season, location, and time of day, and they don’t significantly penetrate glass.
The best protection against both these rays, is year round sunscreen and seeking shade.
So remember, slop on a sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection, slip on a shirt, and slap on a hat!