Ask Dr. G: What is the difference between UVA and UVB Sunscreen?

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Northern Colorado Board Certified Plastic Surgeon Denis GonyonQuestion: What is the difference between UVA and UVB sunscreen? Do I need both?

Answer: At one time, it was thought we only needed to protect against UVB rays from the sun, but today I recommend that everyone wears a Broad Spectrum Sunscreen, meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. So why do you have to protect against both? UVA rays are the most prevalent and can penetrate clouds and glass. UVA is known as the tanning rays and play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling caused by damage to the skin’s DNA. Then we have UVB rays, which cause skin reddening and sunburn and tend to damage the skin’s more superficial layers. What is really important to remember is that UVB rays can burn and damage your skin year-round, especially at high altitudes (such as here in Colorado) and can reflect off surfaces such as snow or ice, which bounce back up to 80 percent of the rays. So the next time you are looking to replace your sunscreen, make sure it says Broad Spectrum protection.

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