It’s tanning season, which means it’s time to educate clients on how to protect themselves from sun damage. Most people know that SPF stands for sun protection factor and that few users apply enough sunblock to do the trick. What you might not know is that the SPF pertains only to UVB rays. “There is no standardized way to quantify a product’s ability to protect against damage from UVA rays,” says Dr. Michelle Yagoda, a New York City-based plastic surgeon and co-founder of Beautyscoop. “In simple terms, it doesn’t matter what the SPF number is, you probably don’t have enough protection from the sun’s damaging UVA rays.”

Dr. Yagoda gives us the low-down on effective sun protection:

UVA vs. UVB: What’s the difference? The sun’s UVB rays are the milder, “tanning” rays, but the UVA rays are the aggressors — causing premature aging, sun spots and skin cancers. While there is currently no rating scale to assess sun protection from UVA rays, you can choose a product labeled with the words “broad spectrum UVA/UVB” to provide you with the assurance you are looking for. A simple “UVA/UVB” label is not enough, as it only indicates that there is some, limited UVA protection.

Zinc: Zinc is a safe, familiar, and reliable element. Long used on babies’ bottoms as an anti-inflammatory in cases of severe diaper rash and used equally often on lifeguards’ sun-burned noses, zinc has a familiar place in medicinal history. Micro-aerosolized zinc is a clear cousin of the older white pasty version. It provides the broadest spectrum of any sun protection ingredient and is the only ingredient safe enough to use on children under six months of age.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about