Busting the Myths about Sun Cream: Your Guide to UVA and UVB
It’s that time of year where us Brits get overexcited and head to the park or coast in search of rays without a single thought about our poor pale skin. But while sun cream is obviously important when the sun is scorching, it’s only effective if you use the right one correctly. A factor 50 may always seem like your best bet, but there are actually plenty of reasons to avoid it. So we’re here to dispel the myths about sun cream to keep your skin protected this summer.
The Difference Between UVA and UVB
One of the main points of confusion when it comes to sun block is the difference between ultraviolet A sunrays (UVA) and ultraviolet B sunrays (UVB). We could go into a load of technically details about the scientific difference but for that we suggest you head to https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/uva-and-uvb, where they really know what they’re talking about. But very generally speaking;
– Over exposure to UVA can cause skin cancer
– Over exposure to UVB can burn your skin
Essentially both UVA and UVB can be very harmful, which means you need protection from both. But this is where our consumer habits have played tricks on us…
Breaking Down SPF
An SFP rating (factor 15, factor 30 etc.) is concerned with UVB rays. It indicates how long it will take for UVB to redden/burn skin when using a sunscreen, compared to how long skin would take to redden without it. So for example, an SPF of 15 will take 15 times longer to redden than without the sunscreen.
Generally speaking, most of us just accept that the higher the SPF rating, the more protected against the sun we are. E.g. factor 50 is far more beneficial than factor 30. And while that is true, the amount of protection a higher SFP sun cream will give you is not proportionate to its number. So for example, a factor 50 does not block sun twice as much as a factor 25. As a rough guide, a factor 30 blocks 97% of harmful UVB and a factor 50 blocks 98% – not quite the difference you’d expect.
So while a high SPF rated cream does stop of us from burning, it tells us very little about the sun cream’s ability to protect against the arguably more harmful UVA.
Sun Cream UVA Star Ratings
In the UK, not many of us are aware of the UVA Star Rating system, but it’s incredibly important and should always be taken into consideration when buying a cream. Usually it’s marked with ‘UVA’ inside a circle and you shouldn’t be using a sun cream if it doesn’t have it clearly labelled.
The rating is on a scale of 1-5 and measures how much UVA it’s blocking relative to how much UVB. So the higher the star rating, the better protected you are against cancer-causing UVA. Ultimately, this means that a factor 50 with a 2 star rating is going to be less effective against the dangers of the sun’s rays than a 30 factor with a 5 star rating.
Sun Creams to Buy
Surprisingly, it’s often the own brand sun creams which have a better star rating. They’re always cheaper and usually have the UVA star ratings clearly marked, as well as the SPF rating. If a sun cream doesn’t have a UVA star rating clearly marked but says ‘Advanced UVA Protection’ (or something similar), you’re still much safer with something else that’s tested and takes these rating systems seriously.
Now you’ve listened to us waffle, enjoy the sun!