How proficient are you in reading your sunscreen label? Hong Kong dermatology specialist Dr. Joyce Tang unriddle the acronyms, numbers and symbols on your sunscreen bottle – giving you the knowledge to stay properly protected from the summer sun.
UVA Ultra Violet A
A cause of skin ageing and skin cancer
UVB Ultra Violet B
The chief cause of sunburn
SPF Sun Protection Factor
Indicating the ratio of time that it prevents sunburn against UVB
“The numbers indicates the ratio of time that a sunscreen prevents sunburn against UVB. For example, SPF 50 means if bare skin gets burnt in 5 minutes, with an adequate amount of that sunscreen it takes 250 minutes,” explains Dr. Tang.
There are two different meanings for plus symbols; “The symbol after SPF 50 (SPF 50+) is there to show that the FDA no longer approves any SPF number greater than 50. Therefore, anything beyond SPF 50 will be labeled as SPF 50+.
If the sunscreen has the symbols PA+ up to PA++++, it refers to the protection grade of UVA, indicating that sunscreen’s level of protection against skin cancer and ageing.”
“Pick a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against both UVA and UVB, and make sure you apply enough - for your face, that means half a teaspoon of sunscreen. SPF 30, PA++++ would be the choice for daily use and SPF 50+ PA++++ for outdoor use,” suggests Dr. Tang.