UVA vs UVB Rays: What’s the Difference?
You see them all over the sunscreen aisle at your local pharmacy, but what do UVA & UVB mean? And why do they matter?
UVA and UVB are acronyms for the two types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun that reach the earth’s surface. Long-wave UVA rays are known to cause premature aging, while short-wave UVB rays are to blame for painful sunburns. However, both forms of radiation contribute to major skin damage and skin cancer risks.
Let’s break down everything you need to know about UVA & UVB rays so you can stay safe all year long. Yes, we said all year! Even during darker, colder months it’s still important to protect your skin from these powerful UV rays.
All About UVA Rays
The general population is exposed to a great deal of UVA rays throughout their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society, UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation that reaches the Earth's surface.
UVA rays are present year-round, from sunrise until sunset, and although it may not seem like it, these rays maintain their intensity even during the colder months. Since UVA rays can penetrate glass and clouds it’s essential to wear sunscreen and UPF clothing every day, even if it’s cloudy or you’re indoors.
While UVA rays are slightly less intense than UVB, your risk of exposure is much higher, making them equally as harmful. Also, UVA rays penetrate to the innermost layers of your skin’s epidermis (aka the outermost layer of skin). Overtime, this exposure to UVA can lead to premature wrinkles and raise your risk of skin cancer.
While many sunscreens offer UVB protection it is important to find sunscreen with “broad spectrum” spf as it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Cancer Foundation advises everyone to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For beach days or any day spent outdoors, use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours!
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 outermost layers.
In addition to sunburns, UVB rays are largely to blame for causing skin cancers, including malignant melanoma. While one sunburn isn’t fatal, UV exposure builds over time so it’s important to defend your skin against excessive damage. 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 highest. UVB hits its peak in 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, at high altitudes or near reflective surfaces. So don’t forget your sunscreen on your next ski trip!
What’s the Deal with Tanning Beds?
At this point, you might be wondering, if UV 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’s damaged. When it darkens, it’s trying to prevent further harm as well as the possibility of generating mutations, imperfections and skin cancer. So, instead of heading to the tanning beds the next time you want to be bronzed, opt for an all-natural, non-toxic, airbrush spray tan or tanning lotion.
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. All Cabana Life clothing features an essential ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 50+, so it blocks 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Any piece of our clothing can give you reliable sun protection that never rubs or washes off. Bonus, it looks amazing too! So you can spend less time reapplying & more time enjoying your day safely in the sun.
Cabana Life is dedicated to helping you make smart, sun-safe choices. Browse our new arrivals to find sun-protective beachwear & swimwear for the whole family!