What Is the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?

September 10, 2019

What Is the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?

You see them everywhere, but what do the acronyms UVA and UVB mean? Why are they plastered all over the sunscreen aisle at your local pharmacy?

These acronyms reference the two types of UV rays that reach the earth’s surface from the sun – long-wave ultraviolet A (UVA) and short-wave ultraviolet B (UVB). And while there are many different types of rays present in sunlight, these are the two that we feel immediately. Therefore, they’re the ones we need to watch out for!

 Below, we’re breaking down everything you need to know about UVA and UVB rays so you can stay safe all year long. Let’s get started!

All About UVA Rays

The general population is exposed to a great deal of UVA rays throughout their lifetime. In fact, these rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface.

While UVA rays are significantly weaker than UVB, your risk of exposure is much higher, making them equally as harmful. UVA rays are present year-round, during all hours that the sun shines. And though it may not seem like it, these rays maintain their intensity even during the colder months. And because UVA rays can penetrate glass, it’s essential to wear sunscreen any time you’re outside or near a window.

 To protect yourself from sun damage, dermatologists recommend sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher for daily coverage. For extended sun exposure – like a day at the beach – opt for an SPF of 30 or more.

What’s the Deal with Tanning Beds?

At this point, you might be wondering, if UVA rays are so harmful, why do tanning beds exist? Tanning beds mainly use UVA rays because they are responsible for the tan you see after a day at the beach.

However, this golden glow is actually a defense mechanism that your skin uses when it becomes damaged. When it darkens, it’s trying to prevent further harm as well as the possibility of generating mutations, imperfections, and skin cancer. So, the next time you get the itch to head to the tanning salon, remember – tanning beds put you at risk for a slew of health issues. Instead, opt for an all-natural, non-toxic, airbrush spray tan.

Breaking Down UVB Rays

Odds are, you’ve experienced one or more unfortunate sunburns in your lifetime. These painful, bright-red burns are caused by overexposure to UVB rays, which damage the skin’s superficial epidermal layers.

In addition to sunburns, UVB rays are largely to blame for causing skin cancers, including malignant melanoma. Luckily, most sunscreens will protect you from the majority of UVB rays, which is why it’s crucial to maintain consistent coverage.

Before you head outside, it’s also important to know when UVB rays are at their peak. The most significant amount of UVB hits the United States between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. between April and October. However, UVB rays can still harm your skin during the colder months, especially at high altitudes or near reflective surfaces!

Perfect Your Sun Protection Routine with Help from Cabana Life

When it comes to sun-safety, the best defense is a good offense. By educating yourself and following a comprehensive sun protection routine, you can maintain the health of your skin for years to come. In addition to applying sunscreen and taking breaks in the shade, it’s important to outfit yourself in high-quality, sun-protective clothing. When you wear pieces that feature an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+, you can block 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Plus, this reliable form of sun protection never rubs or washes off, so you can spend less time reapplying, and more time enjoying your day. 

Cabana Life is dedicated to helping you make smart, sun-safe choices. Browse our new arrivals to find sun-protective beachwear for the whole family!


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