Can you believe that for decades sunscreen protected only from UVB rays?
No one gave a crap about UVA rays. They don’t cause sunburns, so who cares if they give you wrinkles (and that’s not even the worst thing they do…)?
I do. Cos UVA rays are even worse than UVB rays. Yep, not all UV rays are created equal. UVA and UVB rays do different things to your skin and you want to be protected from both.
Here’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays (and why your sunscreen should cover both):
What are UVA rays?
UVA rays represent about 95% of the UV radiation that reaches the earth! These long wave UV rays are present every single day, from the moment the sun comes up to the moment it goes away.
They easily penetrate the darkest of clouds and shiny windows and even get reflected on snow. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of the desert, in a chaotic city or on top of a snow-covered mountain. Those pesky UVA rays will get you EVERYWHERE (including your own home, if you sit near the windows) until the sun sets!
That’s why they are way more damaging than UVB rays – even though they’re weaker! The damage UVA rays do to your skin is continuous and severe, but it doesn’t show up straight away.
With UVA rays, there’s no tell-tale warning. You know, that darkening of the skin that tells you, “get out of the sun, now!” (yep, a tan is your body’s way of telling you you’ve overstayed your welcome in the sun).
UVA rays generate an endless stream of free radicals, the nasty buggers that give you wrinkles. They also reduce elastin, the protein that keeps your skin elastic and bouncy (that’s why tanners get deeper wrinkles, by the way).
UVA rays don’t just make you age faster. They also cause abnormal cell production. Translation: they can lead to cancer. Don’t risk it!UVA is for aging and UVB is for burning. Make sure your sunscreen protects you from both!
What are UVB rays?
UVB rays emit medium wave ultraviolet radiation, so only about 5% reaches our planet. The rest is absorbed by the clouds and ozone layer (which we humans are stupidly destroying).
UVB rays are stronger between 10 a.m and 4 p.m. (that’s why your mom told you to stay out of the sun during those hours) but can’t pass through clouds or windows. If you’re inside, you’re safe. Phew!
They’re not as numerous as UVA rays, but they’re more powerful so they can still do a lot of damage. Some of this damage is visible as it happens. I’m talking about sunburns. As soon as you see your face turning red, you know UVB rays have got you.
That’s not all they do. Like UVA rays, UVB rays can cause abnormal cell mutation and give you cancer. Five serious sunburns are enough to increase your risk of skin cancer by 80%! Stay safe!
The Bottom Line
These days, (almost) all sunscreens give you both UVA and UVB coverage. But, it’s still possible to find a dud that slacks on UVA protection. Make sure to leave it on the shelf!
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