EVERYTHING YOU NEED
TO KNOW ABOUT UVA AND UVB PROTECTION

Article Read Duration 8 min read

UVA rays cause premature ageing of the skin, while UVB rays are responsible for burns and tanning. Both increase your risk of skin cancer. Long UVA rays are a subgroup of UVA that penetrate skin especially deeply and cause issues such as dark pigment spots, sun allergy and premature ageing. Effective protection must filter out UVA, UVB and long UVA. You can tell how strong your sun protection is by looking at its SPF rating for UVB rays and its PPD rating for UVA. The most advanced sun protection products integrate anti-oxidants such as Baicalin for boosted anti-long UVA protection. The Anthelios range from La Roche-Posay offers expert UVA-UVB-long UVA protection suitable for even the most sensitive skin.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN UVA AND UVB?

UV rays only account for 5% of the sun rays that reach the earth, but they are very powerful. There are several kinds. While UVC rays are usually blocked by the ozone layer, UVA and UVB rays reach the earth and have an effect on the skin.

UVA: A as in "Ageing" or "Allergies"

Occurring throughout the year and even on cloudy days, UVA rays account for 95% of the ultraviolet rays that touch the earth's surface. They are tenacious too as they can pass through clouds, glass and the epidermis.
Unlike UVB which causes sunburn, UVA rays are painless but they are not harmless. On the contrary, they can penetrate very deep within the skin to reach the cells of the dermis (skin’s deeper layer). By producing free radicals, they can cause long-term damage and bring about:

  • Photoageing: skin’s support structures (collagen and elastin fibres) are modified resulting in a slackening effect and wrinkle formation.
  • Sun intolerance, commonly referred to as sun allergy (redness, itching, polymorphous light eruption).
  • Pigmentation disorders (pregnancy mask, dark spots).
  • Development of skin cancers.

Click HERE to jump to UVA protection.

UVB: B as in "Burns" or "Bronzed skin"

UVB rays make up just 5% of the UV rays reaching earth. Unlike UVA, they are stopped by clouds and glass, but they can penetrate the epidermis. They are responsible for tanning, but also sunburn, sun allergy reactions and skin cancers.
Click HERE to jump to UVB protection.

You’ve understood it is important to protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
Click HERE for information on how to choose the right sunscreen.

WHAT ARE
LONG UVA?

Long UVA rays: an ever-present and invisible danger

All year round, without realizing it, we are constantly exposed to long UVA rays. This is known as passive exposure. These solar rays can travel through clouds, glass and even the epidermis down to the dermis (skin’s deeper layer).

What are the effects of long UVA rays?

The longer the UVA rays, the more deeply they penetrate the skin. They sometimes cause skin damage which can be irreversible:

  • Pigmentation and color disorders, like pregnancy mask, dark spots and a grayish complexion.
  • Sun allergies and intolerances: Like all UV rays, long UVA rays can trigger the appearance of redness, spots on the skin and itching. Click HERE to learn more about sun allergy.
  • Photo-ageing or premature ageing: Reduction in the skin's elasticity and slackening, which favors the appearance of wrinkles.

Long UVA make up 75% of all UV radiation, so any protection worth considering must provide broad-spectrum UVA-UVB coverage all the way to long UVA.

WHAT DO THE NUMBERS
ON SUNSCREEN MEAN?

Understanding sunscreen protection factors

Choosing the right sunscreen can be a real dilemma! With all the different names, numbers and abbreviations (SPF, PPD), it's not always easy to find what you need. So what do you need to know to get the best protection?

UVB protection: the SPF system

UVB protection is measured using a system called SPF (sun protection factor). In order to avoid sunburn, you need to choose the right SPF. It is indicated on all sunscreens, and there are four levels of protection: low (factor 6 to 10), medium (15 to 25), high (30 to 50) and very high (50+). But what do these sunscreen SPF numbers actually mean?

Let’s consider an example:
Let’s say Laura is a fair-skinned person who can normally stay in the sun for 10 minutes before burning.

If she applies an SPF of 10, the time taken to burn is multiplied by the sun protection factor of 10, so she will be able to stay in the sun for 10 x 10 = 100 minutes before burning.

But bear in mind that she’d need to apply a generous, even layer to be protected. As a general rule of thumb, you probably need more cream than you think. A golfball-sized amount for the whole body is a rough guide.

UVA protection: the PPD system

UVA protection has its own system, called PPD (persistent pigment darkening), to measure protection. As with SPF, a higher PPD means stronger and longer protection against the harmful effects of UVA rays. The system works in the same way as the SPF system, so a PPD of 10 means it will take about 10 times longer for skin to turn red compared with unprotected skin. Again, think “more is more” when it comes to sunscreen application.

DIFFERENT PHOTOTYPES REACT
MORE OR LESS QUICKLY TO THE SUN

While some skins tan easily, others are more fragile and need a constantly high protection factor. With a high protection factor, your skin is better protected. However, product must be re-applied every 2 hours, or after swimming or intense sweating.

What is my phototype?

Your phototype is a classification that reflects how your skin reacts to the sun. There are six types:

  • Phototype I: milky skin (redheads), always burns, never tans, many freckles.
  • Phototype II: fair skin, always burns, sometimes achieves a slight glow, many freckles.
  • Phototype III: fair to dark skin, sometimes burns, always tans (medium tan), some freckles.
  • Phototype IV: dark skin, never burns, always tans (dark tan), no freckles.
  • Phototype V: brown skin, never burns, always tans (very dark tan), no freckles.
  • Phototype VI: black skin, never burns, no freckles.

SO, WHAT SUNSCREEN
SHOULD I CHOOSE?

What is the best UVA, UVB and long UVA protection for sensitive skin?

To stay safe in the sun, you need a sun protection that combines UVA, UVB and long UVA protection. Make sure your product specifically mentions long UVA, as not all formulas protect against this subtype of UV radiation. If you have fair skin with light hair and eyes, you will need high or very high protection (SPF 30 - 50+), whereas you may be able to use a lower protection factor if you have darker skin. If you have sensitive skin, you need to use a brand that specifically formulates products suitable for sensitive skin.

For nearly 30 years, La Roche-Posay Dermatological Laboratory has developed a range of sunscreens dedicated to protecting all types of sensitive skin, for both adults and children. With its effective sun protection against UVA, UVB and long UVA rays, the ANTHELIOS range offers you protection that's up to twice as strict as the European recommendation, while maintaining excellent tolerance even on sensitive skin.

A COMPLETE RANGE FROM THE REFERENCE
DERMATOLOGICAL SUNCARE BRAND

Recommended by dermatologists: Your skin in safe hands

Available in liquids, oils, milks, gels or sprays, the ANTHELIOS range from dermatologist’s partner brand La Roche-Posay offers you a wide choice of textures that combine comfort and protection, without compromising on tolerance for frequent use. Anthelios respects the needs and specific requirements of each skin type and its products are available in different formats and at different levels of protection (high SPF 30 protection or very high SPF 50+ protection). The combination of high UVA and UVB protection protects you against the immediate unpleasant effects of the sun such as sunburn, but also long-term damage like photoaging.

WHAT IS THE BEST
DAILY SUNSCREEN FOR THE FACE?

Which sunblock should I choose for my sensitive facial skin

If you have sensitive skin and are looking for effective daily sunscreen for the face, your go-to option is the ANTHELIOS range from the sensitive skin expert and dermatologist’s partner brand La Roche-Posay. All Anthelios products are suitable for sensitive skin and offer balanced UVA-UVB protection all the way to long UVA.

ANTHELIOS XL 50+ COMFORT CREAM:
VERY HIGH PROTECTION FOR THE FACE

Enhanced with anti-oxidant protection against long UVA

To go even further in its commitment and offer very high protection against UV rays for sensitive skin, La Roche-Posay has enhanced the formula of its flagship facial protection product by adding an original anti-oxidant ingredient derived from traditional Chinese medicine.

Baicalin: a revolutionary anti-oxidant against long UVA radiation

The new formula of the 50+ Cream has been enhanced with a unique anti-oxidant - Baicalin - and for the first time ever has demonstrated its biological efficacy against the effects of UV radiation, including long UVA rays, for greater protection.

Supplementing Mexoplex®, our cutting-edge filter system, Baicalin is taking protection even further by:

  • Limiting the production of free radicals induced by long UVA rays.
  • Protecting the cellular DNA.

Result: skin is effectively protected against UVA, UVB and long UVA. With the right protection, you and your family’s skin is safe under the sun.

ANTHELIOS ULTRA CREAM SPF50+:
A MINIMALIST FORMULA THAT PREVENTS EYE STINGING

Especially for people concerned by ingredients in suncare products, for the first time, La Roche-Posay creates its most minimalist suncare formulas with no compromise on protection. With up to 12 ingredients fewer than the previous formulas and no preservatives, ANTHELIOS Ultra creates an ultra-resistant film on skin that prevents eye irritation due to sunscreen migration. Finally, a suncare to meet the needs of even the most demanding safety seekers, boosted by technology to make it safe around the delicate eye area.

Did you know: The fragile eye area is particularly at risk of skin cancers

Concerns over products stinging the eyes are particularly harmful since they lead suncare users to skip the eye area, which is one of the most vulnerable areas of skin to the development of skin cancers. In fact, skin cancers of the eyelid account for 5 to 10% of all skin cancers1. ANTHELIOS Ultra is tested on people with sensitive eyes and contact lens wearers under ophthalmological supervision, with outstanding results. In clinical testing, the product does NOT:

  • Sting the eyes 81%
  • Run into the eyes 84%
  • Make the eyes tear 90%

The bottom line? Protection is vital, and it must include the sensitive eye area. With ANTHELIOS Ultra, you can apply product around your eyes with no risk of tears or stinging.

NEED
A RECAP?

How to select sun protection

  • Your product should offer balanced broad-spectrum UVA-UVB protection all the way to long UVA rays.
  • If you have fair skin and light eyes, opt for high or very high protection (SPF 30 - 50+).
  • If you have sensitive skin, look for products specifically formulated for this skin type, to avoid reactions.
  • The most advanced products incorporate anti-oxidants such as Baicalin to help reduce the damage caused by long UVA.
  • The ANTHELIOS range from the sensitive skin expert and dermatologist’s partner brand La Roche-Posay offers balanced UVA-UVB-long UVA protection going beyond European recommendations.

Click HERE for information on how to keep children safe in the sun.

To learn about pigmentation problems such as dark spots and pregnancy mask, click HERE.

1Cook BE Jr, Bartley GB. Treatment options and future prospects for the management of eyelid malignancies: an evidence-based update. Ophthalmology 2001 Nov; 108(11):2088-98.

TRUE
OR FALSE

SUNK CAN MAKE
YOU AGE PREMATURELY.

TRUE

UVA rays disrupt skin’s inner building blocks such as collagen and elastin fibres. Over time,sun exposure causes a loss of plumpnessand elasticity as well as wrinkles. UVB rays also stimulate patchy and irregular pigment production leadingto dark spots and a sallow complexion. Globally, thesechanges in the skin are known as photo-ageing.
Learn More

NO NEED TO WEAR SUN
PROTECTION WHEN IT'S CLOUDY.

FALSE

Even on a grey and rainy day, skin is exposed to UV rays that will gradually cause the stigmata of photo-ageing to appear. To fully protect your skin, opt for sunscreen every day, not just when it’s warm and sunny. 
Learn More

THE EARLIER A SKIN
CANCER IS DETECTED, THE BETTER.

TRUE

If detected early, 90% of skin cancers are curable. That is why screening is so important Between dermatologistvisits, use [SAVE YOUR SKIN LANDING PAGE] to keep an eye on your moles and those of your loved ones. And of course, make sunscreen a daily non-negotiable to protect your moles and prevent skin cancer.
Learn More

WE HAVE ALSO
A RANGE FOR THAT

ANTHELIOS is a pioneering player in the suncare market. Its broad-spectrum, very high protection is the result of almost 30 years of advanced clinical research into Suncare and sensitive skin.

OUR SAFETY
COMMITMENTS

Safety standards beyond international cosmetics regulations.

laroche posay safety commitment product allergy tested model close up

100% PRODUCTS
ALLERGY TESTED

See More
One Prerequisite = Zero Allergic reactions
If we detect a single case, we go back to the labs and reformulate
laroche posay safety commitment essential active dose product head

JUST THE ESSENTIAL,
AT THE RIGHT ACTIVE DOSE

See More
Developed in collaboration with dermatologist and toxicologist, our products contain only the necessary ingredients, at the right active dose.
laroche posay safety commitment sensitive skin model baby

TESTED
ON VERY SENSITIVE
 SKIN

See More
Our products' tolerance is verified on the most sensitive skin: reactive, allergic, acne-prone, atopic, damaged or weakened by cancer treatments.
laroche posay safety commitment formula protection product head

FORMULA PROTECTION
OVER TIME

See More
We select the most protective packaging associated with only the necessary preservatives, to guarantee intact tolerance and efficacy over time.