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Today’s sun care products provide both protection and aesthetics. Elegant formulations available in a variety of formats now offer value-added benefits in addition to protection from UVA and UVB rays. The latest formulations take sun care products to another level. Some are boosting SPF levels with a combination of synergistic ingredients, some feature advanced polymer technology and others emphasize the benefits of antioxidant vitamins. When all is said and done, however, the primary aim of sun care products is to protect the skin from sun damage.
With the debate about the best way to get vitamin D and the controversy surrounding tanning beds, The Skin Cancer Foundation notes there is a great deal of misinformation surrounding ultraviolet radiation (UV). According to the foundation, “One thing is clear; UV radiation is known to be the main factor responsible for skin cancers, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and possibly melanoma.”
UVA is long wavelength UV (320–400 nm) and accounts for up to 95% of the solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface. It can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin, and is thought to be a major contributor to skin aging and wrinkling. The Skin Cancer Foundation also indicates that UVA has been shown in recent studies to possibly initiate and exacerbate the development of skin cancers.
UVB is the middle range of UV, with wavelengths between 290–320 nm. It is biologically active, and is responsible for burning, tanning, acceleration of skin aging and plays a key role in the development of skin cancer. It is clear that exposure to a combination of UVA and UVB is an attack on the skin, and protection from these rays is the way to avoid related problems.
The most important issue to understand about a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating is that it mainly indicates relative protection from erythema produced by UVB. In order to get protection against both UVA and UVB, a sunscreen with multispectrum, broad-spectrum or UVA/UVB protection should be selected. Additionally, The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that the label should list an FDA-recognized long wavelength UVA sunscreen, such as avobenzone or zinc oxide.