3 types of UV radiation from the sun you should know about

I thought sun protection was easy – put on the sun cream, a natural sun cream for me please, stay in the shade from 1100 – 1500 and all will be well (assuming I re-apply regularly and after bathing). It seems all is not quite so straightforward.

There are three types of radiation that come from the sun

  • UVA
  • UVB
  • UVC

The atmosphere should protect us from UVC so I will concentrate on UVA and UVB.

UVA is
  • Associated with ageing
  • Penetrates glass
  • Penetrates the skin more deeply than UVB
  • Damages elastin in the skin
  • Leads to wrinkles and sun-induced skin ageing (coarse wrinkles, leathery skin and brown pigmentation)
  • Associated with skin cancer
UVB causes sunburn and has strong links with skin cancer.

3 things to look for in a natural sun cream

  • Protection from UVA
  • Protection from UVB
  • Natural Ingredients

Sun Protection Factor (SPF)

Sun Protection Factor is the sunburn shield of the natural sunscreen (or natural sun cream or natural sun protection lotion). It allows you to stay in the sun for longer. In theory, if you usually burn after 10 minutes and correctly apply a sun screen with a protection factor of 15 you can remain in the sun for 15 times longer (150 minutes). BUT…..it’s not quite so simple. SPF protects against UVB only. An SPF rating gives no indication of a products ability to protect from UVA.

UVA Star Rating (or similar)

The UVA rating or similar of a sun protection product is as important as an SPF. The British Association of Dermatologists tell us ‘When you currently buy sunscreen containing UVA protection in the UK you may notice a UVA star rating on the packaging. The stars range from 0 to 5 and indicate the percentage of UVA radiation absorbed by the sunscreen in comparison to UVB, in other words the ratio between the level of protection afforded by the UVA protection and the UVB protection.’ Some products do not show (or test) their level of protection against UVA, others have a star rating and some carry a symbol showing UVA in an oval – this indicates that at least 30% of the ingredients protect against UVA. The British Association of Dermatologists gives the following advice ‘A sunscreen with an SPF (UBV protection) of 30 and a UVA rating of 4 or 5 stars is generally considered as a good standard of sun protection in addition to shade and clothing.’


For many of us, natural and organic ingredients in skin care products are important. Sunscreen is reapplied more than most other body care products and so the ingredients become even more significant. I suggest that you read the small print. All cosmetic products sold within the EU are required to show a full list of ingredients. The law requires us to list the ingredients in Latin, however, most natural skincare products will also show their ingredients in English. Like this…… Theobroma cacao (Cocoa Butter), Cocos nucifera (Coconut Butter), Apricot kernel oil (Prunus Armeniaca), Calendula oil (Calendula Officinalis), Beeswax (Cera Flava), Vitamin E (Tocopherol), Neroli (Citrus Aurantium Amara), Frankincense (Boswellia Carterii), Blood Orange (Citrus sinensis). The ingredient present at the greatest percentage is shown first and so on down the list until the smallest is last. Sun protection isn’t as easy as it first appears but it is not impossible when you have the right information – ask lots of questions and don’t buy the product unless you get the right answers. If you have any questions for us, please ask.

by Jennifer Young

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