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For years we covered up with sunscreens to protect ourselves and our families from sunburns. Associated with UVB rays, sunburns are caused by UVB rays that penetrate the epidermis or top layer of our skin.  

Recently, however, skin care specialists caution us against exposing ourselves unnecessarily to UVA rays as well. Longer than UVB rays, UVA rays penetrate the epidermis as well. But they also go deeper, causing damage to the dermis where collagen (a component of the skin's supporting structure) and elastin (gives the skin elasticity) reside. They also contribute to aging – wrinkles, age spots, leathery skin as well as some types of skin cancers.

Most sunscreens contain adequate protection from UVB rays. The SPF (sun protection factor) rating is an indication of UVB protection only. Look for a minimum of SPF 30 and reapply often, especially if you have been exposed to water. Since it is not yet mandatory in North America for manufacturers to rate the UVA protection capabilities of a sunscreen it's up to us to do our homework.

When we choose a broad spectrum UVA/UVB blocking sunscreen it's important to ensure that the formulation will protect us against the full UVA and UVB spectrum. Many formulations would like you to believe that you're getting adequate protection, but they often fall short.  

Here's a breakdown of some of the more effective and widely used UVA filters and the range of protection that they offer. Chemical sun filters work by interacting with skin to block UV rays; physical sun filters sit on top of skin and deflect UV rays. There are proponents for both – physical or chemical. The reasons for choosing one over the other is beyond the scope of this article, but here are my picks for sun filters that will deliver protection across the UVA and UVB spectrum:  

Zinc oxide - a physical filter with good protection against the whole UVA and UVB spectrum
Titanium dioxide - a physical filter with good UVB protection. Does not offer much UVA protection
Avobenzone - Chemical filter with very good protection against whole UVA/UVB spectrum. Avobenzone is highly unstable when exposed to sunlight so must be combined with an ingredient such as octocrylene to stabilize it.
Tinosorb M - Chemical filter with excellent UVA and UVB protection
Tinosorb S - Chemical filter with excellent UVA and UVB protection
Mexoryl SX (ecamsule)- Chemical filter with excellent short wave UVA protection
Mexoryl XL - Chemical filter with very good long wave UVA and UVB protection.  

My top picks for sunscreens that will deliver include [Link Removed] 

Sharmani Pillay is a Registered Pharmacist who specializes in anti aging skin care. She owns and operates an online skin care store at

Pharmagirl, Your links have been removed, please consider upgrading to premium membership.


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