Sunscreen is one of the most important skin care products to use, especially in the summer. If you have been shopping for sunscreen this summer you may have noticed that there are many acronyms and terms on sunscreen labels that you may not fully understand or find confusing. We are going to decode what all the different sunscreen terms actually mean.
LET'S GET STARTED.
- SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and the number next to it is the amount or magnitude of overall protection.
- UVA & UVB: Sunlight is made up of two types of harmful Ultraviolet rays, UVA & UVB. UVA stands for Ultraviolet Aging. These rays penetrate deep into your skin and cause premature skin aging, called photoaging, such as wrinkles. In the US, the main chemicals that protect against UVA are avobenzone, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide.
- UVB stands for Ultraviolet Burn and these rays are responsible for burning the top layer of your skin, aka sunburn. UVB rays are also the greatest cause of skin cancers.
- Broad Spectrum: Broad spectrum means that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB rays. Thanks to new FDA regulations, if a sunscreen is labeled broad spectrum, that means the UVA protection is proportional to the UVB protection.
- PA+: You may have noticed that some sunscreens have PA+++ written on their label. The “PA” followed by plus signs (PA+, PA++, PA+++, and PA++++) on a label is a rating system developed in Japan to represent how much UVA protection the product offers. PA rating measures a process called Persistent Pigment Darkening (PPD) which is how the sun’s UVA rays cause the skin to become brown and stay brown.
Here is what each PA rating means:
- PA+ = Some UVA protection.
- PA++ = Moderate UVA protection.
- PA+++ = High UVA protection.
- PA++++ = Extremely High UVA protection.
Although the PA rating system seems helpful, not all countries agree with how the PA measurement values are achieved which makes the rating system questionable. Now that we decoded SPF here are some final reminders:
- You should be wearing sunscreen that is broad spectrum SPF 30+ everyday
- Dont forget to reapply, especially if you are outside
- Dont forget to apply to your ears, neck, chest and hands