Posted by Laurie Snyder & filed under .


Sunscreen labeling can be confusing, and a lack of understanding means that you may not be getting the protection your skin needs. The general consensus is that the higher the SPF the better, but even that has come into question. There are a lot of unknowns in this arena and it’s easy to get confused—do you know your UVA from your UVB and UVC? Are they important (the answer is yes), and why?

If you don’t know, you’re not alone—according to a study from Northwestern University, only 49% of people know what SPF means. Let’s get privy to the most common—and most important—sun protection acronyms. most of us are not getting the protection our skin needs. Here’s the breakdown:


noun: abbrev. for sun protection factor. A rating for the effectiveness of sun protection in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

The sun protection factor is a number that refers to the level of protection offered—two is the lowest level and can reach upwards of 50+. SPF 30 is the lowest protection level recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology recommends no matter your skin type. It’s important to note that the SPF rating on your sunscreen refers to protection from UVB rays only, but protection from UVA is critical, too. Double check that the sun protection you have indicates UVA and UVB protection or broad-spectrum—it’s often notated as a separate star rating (more on UVA, below).


noun: ultraviolet light with a relatively short wavelength

UVB rays are the chief cause of skin reddening and sunburn, damaging the skin’s top layers and is capable of causing skin cancer. These rays cause aging and a whole host of problems. Cover up and keep these them at bay.


noun: ultraviolet light with a relatively long wavelength, able to penetrate the deep layers of the skin.

According to data from the Skin Cancer Foundation, UVA rays account for up to 95 percent of the UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Able to penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, these are the ones you need to watch out for when it comes to skin aging and wrinkles, though, they too can cause skin cancer.. Four is the minimum “star rating” recommended for UVA protection during prolonged sun exposure and ratings range from one star to five. Read your labels!


noun: a shortwave ultraviolet light that penetrate the skin

Unfortunately, UVC rays are the most damaging and harmful type of UV radiation. Luckily, UVC rays don’t reach us because they’re completely filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere.

Remember to read your labels and know what to look for: broad-spectrum protection (UVA and UVB), SPF 30 and up, and water resistant sunscreen (and don’t forget to reapply). If you have questions about sun protection—from how to prevent sun damage to post-exposure treatments and products—our team can help. Call us at 512.379.6090 or book a consultation online to learn more.