UVA vs. UVB Rays: What’s the Difference?

UVA vs. UVB Rays: What’s the Difference?

One burns your skin, and the other ages it. That’s the difference between UVA and UVB rays. Think . . . UVA (Ages) and UVB (Burns)—if you want to remember it easily. 

So, why bother knowing the difference? Because some sunscreens will only protect you against one type of ray, that’s why. Especially if they’re chemical sunscreens. Read the label. And always choose broad-spectrum protection. 

Both Rays Hurt Your Skin

Now that you know both UVA (aging) and UVB (burning) rays are harmful, you’ll never again settle for partial protection. Instead, you’ll reach for a BROAD spectrum sunscreen that protects you from both. 

Where Do These UV Rays Come From?

Ultraviolet rays come from nuclear reactions inside the sun. This radiation travels to earth, where it reaches your skin (or another surface). Rays can bounce off concrete, grass, water, snow, and more to again bombard our skin with . . . you guessed it . . . UV radiation!  

UVA and UVB Rays Damage Differently 

  • Ultraviolet (Aging) rays damage collagen and elastin, making your skin break down and age early. (UVA rays also unleash harmful free radicals). Wrinkles are a common sign of early aging caused by the sun. 
  • Ultraviolet (Burning) rays damage DNA in your skin cells. This causes mutations that can make skin cells multiply quickly and form malignant tumors, also known as cancer. 

Types of Skin Cancer

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that forms inside the dark spots on your body. Other types of skin cancer include:

  • Basal cell carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma

You’re at Risk Constantly

UVA (aging) rays break through cloud cover. So, you’re at risk any time the sun is in the sky. So, wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen. Every. Day. Of. The. Year. It doesn’t matter whether you’re spending your time outside or inside. 

Still At Risk Indoors

You are still at risk of damaging rays indoors. UVA (aging) rays can penetrate glass windows and damage your skin while you sit on your couch, at your desk, and more. A UV window film could help block UVA rays. 

You’re Especially at Risk Outdoors

Wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen outside. Layer your UVA and UVB sunscreen protection with other things like clothing, sunglasses, a hat, and an umbrella. Look for shade when possible. And try to avoid the sun when it’s at its most intense, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Here’s Some Good News

Vitamin D3 is one positive outcome of exposure to UVB rays. These ultraviolet rays help your body make vitamin D3 which is beneficial for your bones and muscles. But you don’t need much UVB exposure to reap these benefits, so remember to prioritize sun protection.

The Bottom Line

The difference between UVA and UVB rays is that one type ages your skin, while the other type burns it. Both damage your skin. 

You’re constantly at risk of ultraviolet rays whether you’re indoors or out. That’s why it’s crucial to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, year-round. 

Sunscreen is your skin’s first line of defense against sunburns and premature aging. But it’s not always enough, which is why we recommend layering your protection.

An umbrella, hat, sunglasses, and clothing are all helpful.  So is finding shade when you’re outside.  Plus, try to plan your outdoor time before 10:00 a.m. and after 4:00 p.m. when   

Ready to begin your journey to healthier skin? We’re here for you at the Skin and Cancer Institute. Our compassionate dermatologists know how hard it is to protect yourself from the sun and just how much damage can build up over the years. Make this the year you get your skin checked! Call us at 888-993-3761, and we’ll help you schedule an appointment.