UVA and UVB. So familiar yet so misunderstood. Skincare brands have been under some pressure to provide information regarding just how much UVA protection their sunscreen products actually provide. Until recently, most product labels have only been required to state the level of protection against UVB rays. What’s the big deal? Well, UVB rays are only causing the damage we can see like burns and tans while UVA rays cause an array of skin issues from pigmentation and premature aging to various forms of skin cancer, both benign and malignant. In other words, UVA rays cause the damage you won’t see until it’s too late. So even though you’re slathering on an SPF 60 before heading to the beach, you’re not necessarily protected.
What To Look For In A UVA Sunscreen
As a rule, make sure the sunscreen is labelled Broad Spectrum which means it protects from the full UV spectrum, both UVA and UVB rays. Even better if the label also explicity states it provides UVA and UVB protection.
Ingredients To Keep An Eye Out For In A Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
When picking out a sunscreen the best way to ensure it will provide broad spectrum protection is to look at the ingredient list. Look specifically for the particular sunscreen actives in the formula. Actives that provide excellent UVA protection are Mexoryl, zinc oxide, avobenzone, and Tinosorb. All of these are backed up with extensive research showing their ability to protect skin from UVA rays and, for some ingredients, UVB as well. I will go in depth about each ingredient in an upcoming post.
Zinc oxide and titanium are inert minerals that sit on the surface of the skin and reflect rays away from the skin. These minerals sit on the skin and work very well for those with sensitive or reactive skin or anyone with conditions such as rosacea. Mexoryl, tinosorb, and avobenzone are chemical actives that absorb into the skin and then absorb and scatter uv rays. Chemical sunscreen ingredients are usually listed within a cocktail of other chemical sunscreen ingredients because they make the formula more stable therefore better at protecting. I typically prefer physical sunscreens that contain zinc oxide but the best sunscreen is the one you will actually wear.
Higher Numbers Aren’t Necessarily Better
A sunscreen with an SPF of 100 won’t necessarily protect your skin any better than one with a rating of 30. For one, it depends on whether it’s a broad spectrum formula. The sunscreen could help you dodge UVB rays for hours all the while leaving you vulnerable to UVA damage. Another point to consider is that products with high SPF numbers give us a false sense of security. We think hey, I’m good, I applied an SPF of 100. There are great sunscreens out there but common sense goes a long way when it comes to protecting yourself from the sun.
Some Great Broad Spectrum Sunscreens
Vichy Ideal Soleil SPF 60, ShiSeido Ultimate SPF 50 Protection Lotion Sensitive, Elta MD UV Physical, Avene High Protection Emulsion, ThinkSport Everyday Tinted Facial Sunscreen, Badger Balm SPF 25 Tinted Rose Sunscreen Lotion