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UVA and its impact on your skin

UVA and its impact on your skin

In this post, we wanted to discuss light and the impact it has on your skin health. 

Understanding a few basics - some of which may surprise you - might forever change your attitude to your own skin health, for the better. 

So let’s go…

What is ultraviolet (UV) radiation?

Rays from the sun reach the earth. Some are visible and others are not. 

Ultraviolet light or 'radiation' is invisible and exists in three different wavelengths: UVA, UVB and UVC. Of all the UV that reaches the earth from the sun, UVA accounts for 95%, UVB represents the balance at 5% and UVC rays are filtered out by the atmosphere so they don't reach us, all the way down here on earth.

This is the important bit that nobody realises and it's well summarised by the Skin Cancer Foundation who declare that UVA rays "maintain the same level of strength during daylight hours throughout the year. This means that during a lifetime, we are all exposed to a high level of UVA rays. UVA can penetrate windows and cloud cover."

What does UVA do to our skin?

While UVB is responsible for sun burn and causes damage to the surface of the skin, UVA penetrates the deeper layers of the skin.

Because of this, UVA contributes to skin ageing and wrinkling. Let us explain.

UVA rays damage the deeper-lying, natural proteins sitting under the skin’s surface. These proteins are responsible for the skin's structure and elasticity. When these 'structural' proteins are damaged, the skin loses its strength and support. This is what wrinkling or ageing is. Like pillars holding up a tent, when the pillars weaken, the tent gradually folds. If we all protected our skin from birth, we'd all have baby-looking skin today. It's this UVA that accounts for 80% of premature skin ageing

While this is just a cosmetic concern, there's a major health concern that shouldn't be ignored. Recent studies strongly suggest that UVA also enhances the development of skin cancers because the rays cause DNA damage in certain skin cells. That's why, the World Health Organisation now classifies UV as a human carcinogen.

Reset everything you think you know

You now know these three things:

  1. UVA represents 95% of all UV reaching your skin on a daily basis. 
  2. During daylight, every single day of the year, UVA strength is unchanged
  3. UVA is responsible for premature skin ageing and skin cancer

This is what requires the biggest shift in mindset: for your short and long-term skin health, daily skin protection is a necessity. 

The trouble is that culturally, we focus on summer heat and temperature. People don't understand the ten ton gorilla in the room: UVA radiation. 

The issue is that you can't see or feel the damage from UVA until it's too late.

It even goes through glass and cloud cover.

It's constantly there, just chipping away and damaging your skin. 

And if you've ever heard dermatologists recommend wearing SPF every day, this is exactly why. 

Can I use any SPF?

The rules for what a brand needs to put on a tube of sunscreen or SPF moisturiser are unnecessarily complex. Whoever came up with the current system of numbers, icons and meaningless words should be forced to live off cat food permanently. We've aways felt that simplification is in the consumer's best interest and might even help reduce skin cancer rates but that’s a post for another day.

On the face of it, we all understand the basic language of numbers: the higher the SPF, the higher the protection.

But did you know that SPF is ONLY a measure of protection from UVB? 

Now you're starting to see why we think simplification is needed.... 

So, how do I make sure I’m protected from UVA too?

When choosing any sunscreen or SPF moisturiser, read the pack and check that UVA and UVB protection is provided by the formulation.

If a product says it is 'broad spectrum', this indicates it offers both UVA and UVB protection, a term more commonly used in the US.

In Europe, UVA is represented by a simple UVA logo indicating that the product has the required level of UVA protection under EU cosmetics regulations.

In Britain, the star system is also common but it isn't a regulated definition so a lot of brands - like LifeJacket - default to the European regulatory system. 


The role of our LifeJournal is to simplify and de-mystify one careful step at a time so that you’re not putting yourself and your family at risk. If you haven’t already read them, now's a good time to check out our other posts.

If we could leave you with one point from today's post, it’s that UVA is everywhere, every day. Forget the concept of temperature being a measure of sun strength. Our skin gets daily light damage NOT sun damage. 

For a bit of practical advice, put an SPF moisturiser next to your toothbrush. Every time you brush your teeth in the morning, just throw a teaspoon of moisturiser onto your head and neck. That way you're protected when you step outside. If you're in strong sun in the middle of summer, use a dedicated sunscreen on any exposed skin and re-apply every two hours. These simple steps will hopefully keep you skin-safe, younger-looking and healthy for years to come. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It was an important one.