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Do you know the difference between UVA and UVB Rays?

What you don’t know about UVA and UVB Rays could hurt you

We’ve all seen it. Those sunscreen commercials that bombard us with information about how they protect you from the heat with their SPF (Sun Protection Factor) levels. Now that summer is here, a commonly asked question from our readers is what’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays? So, we’ve taken the liberty of breaking it down for you:

UVA rays have the longest wavelength of ultraviolet rays, and as such can cause long term damage (i.e. skin cancer) by increasing these visible signs of aging: wrinkles, sagging, and dark spots. They are present year round, even in the winter, which is why most skin care experts recommend wearing sunscreen and sunglasses in the winter also. UVA rays can also penetrate car windows, unless they are covered with a protective film or tint.

UVB rays are shorter in wavelength and as such can penetrate through the atmosphere much quicker. Although these rays cause short term burn (i.e. sunburn) the “necessary” components of tanning beds.Luckily, they decrease substantially in the fall and winter, and as such do not cause as much harm in those months.

Ultimately, both UVA and UVB rays can damage your DNA, causing you to appear older than you actually are. The best protection against both forms of ultraviolet rays is a sunscreen. But don’t assume that slabbing on just any sunscreen will do the trick. Specifically, a sunscreen containing a benzophenone such as dioxybenzone, or an octocrylene will extend into both the UVA and UVB spectrum.

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Last updated April 2013