UVA, UVB, SPF; don't know what’s up or down? We get it, it can all sound a bit complicated. So, we’ve tried our best to explain everything from UV rays to SPF. Hang on to your hats, sun-lovers – we’re about to get serious.
What is SPF?
SPF (Sun Protection Factor) indicates how well and for how long sunscreen products protect against UVA/UVB radiation and sunburn. But you should always choose your SPF based on your skin type, how high the UV index is at your location, your activity level (will you be lying still sunbathing or will you be playing sports?) and your surroundings – surfaces like water and snow can reflect the sun’s rays and make them even stronger. Snow can actually reflect up to 90% of UV radiation which can lead to serious sunburn – so don’t forget that SPF50 next time you go skiing!
Is a higher SPF better?
We bet you’ll be surprised: SPF30 actually absorbs 96% of the sun’s UV rays and SPF50 absorbs 98% of the sun’s UV rays, so the amount of radiation blocked is not actually that different. The difference between SPF30 and SPF50 is how long you can stay in the sun before getting sunburned, not their level of protection against the rays in general.
A higher SPF can also result in a false sense of protection and result in burns and sun damage, because people mistakenly believe they can avoid reapplying their sunscreen if it has a higher SPF.
How long does the protection last?
If your skin normally burns after 10 minutes in the midday sun, a proper application of SPF20 would allow you to stay in the sun 20 times longer (200 minutes) without burning. The same principle applies to SPF30 and SPF50.
UVA, UVB – what’s the difference?
We can see some of the sun’s rays – but not all of them. Three different kinds of sun rays reach our planet:
- Visible rays that can be seen with the naked eye
- Infrared rays
- Ultraviolet (UV) rays, which, depending on their wavelength, are either UVA or UVB rays.
UVB rays are not as strong as UVA rays and only penetrate the outer skin layer, causing slow tanning, but they are one of the main causes of sunburn and skin cancer. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin, even through clothes and glass, and they cause skin ageing, wrinkles and skin cancer. That’s why it’s important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, like our Bambo Nature sunscreens, available as both SPF30 and SPF50.
Get the best protection
For the best protection against UVA/UVB rays, it is important to use the right amount of sunscreen and to reapply, reapply, reapply. The easiest way to remember the right amount of sunscreen is this: 1 handful for 1 body. This goes for both adults and children.
Is the sun only bad for us?
Now, all this information might make it sound like the sun should be avoided at all costs; but of course, this is not the case.
The sun also has many beneficial effects, and the human body needs sunshine to function properly. The sun’s rays help us build Vitamin D, which stimulates the metabolism of calcium and promotes bone growth – calcium and strong bones are especially important for growing children and teenagers, and up until around age 30, our bodies are also creating calcium stores for us to tap into later in life. Nice to know, right?
And finally, while sunlight hasn’t been entirely scientifically proven to be a mood-booster, we all know how a grumpy frown can lift at the sight of a little sunshine!