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Summer Lovin’

Summer Lovin’

Summer fun in the Sun SHADE

Part 2: UVA, UVB and SPF – Everything you need to know

It is finally summer! You have dragged out the beach towel, your cozzie, sunnies and wide brimmed hat. Now for the sunscreen – we spoke last time about the benefits of physical sunscreen over an absorbent (chemical) sunscreen.

But what about these UVA vs UVB rays? And what level of SPF should we be looking for? And why does it matter?


Ultra Violet radiation is no good for our skin, we are told this time and time again by health professionals and government heath bodies alike. “Get UV protected.” But there are actually two (main) types of UV radiation.

UVB is the one most people are familiar with, it puts the BURN in UVB. If you are not protected against UVB, you will end up with a painful bout of sunburn, which (as most will know) results in redened, sensitive, peeling skin and even blisters in some severe cases. UVB rays will make your skin feel hot, and will remind you to re-apply your sunscreen.

UVA is more sinister, they are responsible for speeding up the signs of ageing, such as pigment spots, skin texture and wrinkles. But they also do deeper damage to your DNA, encouraging free radicals, which can then lead to things like skin cancer. UVA can penetrate through car windscreens, windows and on cloudy days when you think there is no sun around. Temperature also has little to do with the damage UVA rays can do, especially in Australia, so you can still be damaged by UVA rays even in the dead of winter, as much as in the summertime.

It is always a good idea to check the UV index day to day, particularly if you know you will be outside.

A good example of how damaging UVA rays can be: At the time of writing this piece, it is pouring rain (and will continue for the rest of the week) and the predicted UV rating is 13 – extreme. In Australia the levels rarely drop below “very high” – Even in winter.

SPF – More is more…right?

WRONG! A product with an SPF of 50+ will only give you slightly higher protection than a 30+, and some may have absorbent chemicals in the product to give that small extra cover (AND you will have to re-apply every 2 hours anyway). You are much better off to find a good 30+ with UVA and UVB protection, idealy one made in Australia, and re-apply every 2 hours and after swimming. Pair this with a hat, sunnies, a long sleeve shirt and staying out of the sun during peak UV periods of 11am-3pm.

Stay safe out there!