SPF, UVA, UVB: What protection do I need?

Though we might not notice it, our bodies feel the effects of UV radiation year-round. Long-wave ultraviolet A rays (UVA) and short-wave ultraviolet B rays (UVB) penetrate the ozone layer and induce a variety of nasty reactions like sunburns and premature skin aging, and they also put us at a higher risk for diseases like skin cancer.

In recent years, there has been a mound of research on the impact of the impact of UV rays, but all of these developments have left consumers and skin care brands to decipher difficult language and labeling systems. The first step toward your providing customers with healthy, young-looking skin is to understand the dangers of both UVA and UVB rays, so that you can choose products with the most effective sunscreen actives and the most compelling skin care claims.


5-10% of the solar radiation that reaches the earth is in the form of short-wave UVB rays. UVB rays are responsible for sunburns, and for a long time they were consumers’ primary concern. But UVB is unable to penetrate deeper layers of the skin, so despite the prominent and painful showing of a sunburn, the damage of short-wave UVB rays remains largely on the surface of the skin. In the United States, UVB rays are most powerful in the spring and summer months between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm — which is when the majority of consumers apply and re-apply sunscreen.

UVA vs UVB comparison

Long-wave UVA rays account for up to 95% of the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. UVA rays are equally intense during all daylight hours throughout the year and can penetrate glass. UVA rays can cause long-term damage to deep layers of the skin, resulting in delayed negative effects on the body, like photoaging. UVA rays induce free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS), which cause oxidative stress and wreak havoc on the skin by damaging elastin and collagen fibers, DNA proteins, and membranes. Over time, this damage results in the premature aging of the skin.

UVA rays are a hidden threat because they do not leave behind the noticeable sunburn that UVB rays do. Plus, since UVA can penetrate clouds and windows, consumers do not need to spend time in direct sunlight to experience its harmful effects. But because of the extensive health risks associated with UVA radiation, consumers are quickly learning the importance of guarding against it.

Clinical Signs of Photo-aging

Loss of Collagen and Elastin

Thinning Skin

Spots/Blotchiness/Irregular Pigmentation

Wrinkles and Fine Lines

Dry Leathery Skin, Roughness

Redness (Visible Micro-vessels)

Abnormal Differentiation

Friedman, Oren. "Changes Associated with the Aging Face." Facial Plastic Surgery Clinics of North America 13.3 (2005): 371-80.

The Importance of Broad Spectrum Protection

Despite the risks of ultraviolet radiation, leading scientists say that you should not avoid the sun completely. Sun exposure plays a key role in maintaining everyday health and balance, including the body’s synthesis of vitamin D. The daily application of a high-quality, broad-spectrum sun protection product can prevent UV damage and the resultant oxidative stress that leads to premature skin aging and other negative health effects.

To protect against UVB, a product must have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) claims. But consumers should keep in mind that SPF does not guard against UVA — so an SPF claim will not protect the skin from 95% of UV radiation. To effectively protect the skin, dermatologists recommend the regular application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. “Broad-spectrum” is a term coined by the FDA and used in the United States to identify sun care products that provide UVA protection that is proportional to the UVB protection indicated by the SPF number.

Broad Spectrum Protection Image

Dermatologists recommend the regular application of a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher

The Solésence Solution

Spending time in the sun unprotected can cause the skin to look wrinkled, leathery, and damaged, but that doesn’t mean we have to spend all our time indoors. Scientific advancements have allowed us to reach new heights in environmental protection, and beauty brands increasingly adding these important health claims to cosmetics products. Solésence offers beauty brands finished products that benefit from a patented Active Stress Defense technology that transforms mineral actives into UV-absorbing powerhouses to provide superior broad-spectrum protection — in addition to a host of other health and beauty benefits.

To learn more about the benefits of choosing Solésence, visit www.solesence.com.

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