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Does high-SPF sunscreen protect my skin from all types of sun damage?

The chemicals that form a product’s sun protection factor (SPF) are aimed at blocking ultra violet B (UVB) rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn and non-melanoma skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma. Ultra violet A (UVA) rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are harder to block with sunscreen ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in U.S. sunscreens. Scientists know less about the dangers of UVA radiation, but the general consensus is that while it is less obvious than UVB damage, it is possibly more serious.

A sunscreen lotion’s SPF rating has little to do with the product’s ability to shield the skin from UVA rays. As a result of the FDA’s restrictions on ingredients and concentrations, U.S. sunscreens offer far less protection against UVA than UVB, particularly those products with the highest SPF. Because UVA and UVB protection do not harmonize, high-SPF products suppress sunburn but not other types of sun damage.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.