Some Sunscreen Bull Shite
Ok so I’ve been digging around in the world of sunscreen education / communication again and I saw this still going around:
UVA is for Ageing
UVB is for Burning
As if ‘we’ are participating in some simple fairy tale………
Well we are not five years old people, we are mature adults and UVA is NOT for ageing and UVB is NOT for burning. The split between UVA and UVB is somewhat arbitrary in as much as the point in which one becomes another for SUNSCREENS sake is man-made.
What the skin sees is the sun in all its glory – a continuous stream of rays of varying wavelength, some short, some long and some in-between. We need to think of sunlight as a symphony and not just a breakdown of its notes – quality based not quantity based.
OK so back to the A is ageing and B is burning thingo.
UVA rays for simplicity sake are the ones with the longer wavelengths and yes, they do tend to penetrate down deeper than the UVB rays and can therefore do invisible damage whereas UVB rays tend to make their presence known and felt by changing how the skin looks and feels (red and sore). That’s where the simple A and B rhyme came from. However, what do people think burning is? Burn the skin and it is telling you that it is broken be that a little or a lot. Breaking the skin AGES it prematurely and can also cause it to develop all kinds of other not-so-funky issues.
So, when it comes to sunscreens what matters more than any ultra violet classification exercise is that the sunscreen protects you across as broad a UV range as possible but usually covering the rays that are commonly known to be biologically damaging – no surprise that we call this ‘broad spectrum’ in the sunscreen world!
The general public doesn’t really need to get so worked up about this sort of semantics but it bothers me when industry professionals go on and on in such simple terms. Why? Because the reality isn’t that complex, it doesn’t need breaking down into baby sized puree chunks. We can handle the truth and when we (as the general public) are allowed to read about the science behind our cosmetics in real, grown up language we can ask real grown up questions and start to make real informed choices.
And I think that is a good thing.