If you’re feeling confused while scanning the sunscreen aisle, here’s at least one thing you should know about what it says on the bottle: if you want to avoid sunburn and premature ageing you need a product that provides both UVA and UVB protection.
UVA vs. UVB
The sun emits ultraviolet A rays, which are long-wave, and ultraviolet B rays, which are short-wave.
UVA rays are more plentiful, can be as damaging as UVB rays, and are present no matter what the season or how overcast the sky. UVA rays can also penetrate glass. UVAs go deeper into the skin than UVB and are responsible for photo-aging through the destruction of collagen and elastin. They also damage the keratinocyte skin cells in the basal layer of the epidermis, where skin cancers are most common.
UVBs cannot penetrate as deep into the skin as UVAs, however they are responsible for sunburn, which can lead to skin cancers developing. UVBs are present year round but their intensity peaks during summer.
Luckily, most (but not all!) products that have a SPF rating provide protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
Do You Know Your ABCDEs?
Throughout summer, if you’ve been exposed to the sun even incidentally, you will probably notice new freckles and sunspots appearing on your skin. You may also notice changes to your existing beauty spots. Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognise any changes in the moles on your body. ABCDE method is an effective way to self-detect potentially cancerous spots.
The good news is that 90% of melanomas can be treated if diagnosed early enough and being able to recognise suspicious spots yourself is vital to early detection. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.