Traditionally, people purchase sunscreen based on SPF ratings. However, SPF only protects against the UVB rays of the sun. While the UVB rays are dangerous, so are the sun's UVA rays. Thankfully, more and more sunscreen now offers UVA protection. Dr. Schultz explains how to find sunscreen with UVA protection and how to understand how much protection each provides.
Dr. Neal Schultz: Hello I'm Dr. Neal Schultz and welcome to DermTV. When we buy sunscreens, we usually buy them based on the SPF rating. That rating tells you the relative protection that that sunscreen can offer you against the burning UVB rays of the sun. But it doesn't tell you anything about how much protection you have from UVA rays, and the UVA rays are very important because they're the ones that cause cancer and that cause premature aging of the skin. In the United States, if a sunscreen does afford you some UVA protection all that label is going to say is either with broad-spectrum protection or with UVA protection, so how can we learn how to find sunscreens that give us the maximum amount of UVA protection? First of all, the UVA rays, those are the bad ones that cause cancer and premature aging of the skin penetrate much more deeply into the skin than do the shorter wavelength UVB rays. As a matter of fact, because they get into the second compartment of the skin, where the collagen and where the elastic tissue is, that's how they cause premature aging of the skin because they destroy your collagen and your elastic tissue, these nasty UVA rays are present all year long it doesn't matter what season and they are just as strong all day long. They go through window glass and they even go through clouds. Ninety-five percent of the ultraviolet rays that your skin is going to be hit by in the course of your life are the UVA rays. In the United States, there is no consistent method of indicating how much protection against UVA a sunscreen gives you. However, in Japan, they have started using a system called the PA system which means protection against UVA and that system has been adopted by most of the Asian countries. This is a sunscreen that says SPF 50, UVA/UVB protection and PA+30. Obviously, you can't see this. So I've blown up that part of the package, and here you can see SPF 50. Well that, we know, means about 99% protection against UVB rays, but they tell us it has UVA protection, and then it says, PA+++, that's the highest rating in the Japanese system for protection against UVA. That system goes from + to +++, and because we have no consistent system in the United States for identifying UVA protection, many of the manufacturers of sunscreens in the United States have started adopting this Japanese system and have started labeling their sunscreens with PA+ to PA+++. So when you buy your sunscreen, if you want a sunscreen that gives you maximum protection against the cancer-causing and wrinkling effects of the sun, make sure that you buy a sunscreen that says PA+++. Please join me again at drmtv.com. If you have a question please send me by visiting dermtv.com/question. I'm Dr. Neal Schultz and thank you for watching today.