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UVA vs UVB Rays: What’s the Difference and How to Protect Yourself

We’ve all heard that UV rays can damage our eyes and skin, and are encouraged to keep ourselves protected no matter the weather. Yet, how many of us know the difference between UVA and UVB rays? Or know that we need UVB and UVA protection? 

Let’s take a look at what UV rays are, the difference between UVA vs UVB rays, and what you can do to keep yourself protected from both.

UVA vs UVB Rays

It may be a surprise to know that only some of the UV rays emitted by the sun reach the Earth. Two of these rays are UVA and UVB rays. These are usually grouped as UV rays, but you do need to understand the need for specific UVB and UVA protection.

UVA Rays

The difference between UVA and UVB rays is subtle but important. UVA radiation is the most common, making up the largest portion of UV rays. These rays penetrate deeper into the skin and can even pass through glass. They have longer wavelengths and tend to do more damage to the skin than UVB rays. Tanning comes from UVA rays, so they are the primary rays used in tanning beds. Some enduring effects of UV rays, like wrinkles and liver spots, are the result of UVA rays. 

UVB Rays

When it comes to UVA vs UVB rays, UVB rays make up less of the sun’s radiation but they still bring damaging effects. UVB rays are shorter, have a higher energy, and, when combined with UVA rays, mutate skin cells to cause cancer. These rays are also linked to cataracts and other eye issues. 

Damage Caused by UV Rays

When it comes to UVA vs UVB rays, both cause significant damage. According to The American Cancer Foundation, UV is the “strongest carcinogen to humans.” There is no difference between UVA and UVB rays when it comes to needing protection. 

Our eyes are also sensitive to UV radiation from the sun. In fact, it can also cause lasting harm. One of the most common is cataracts, a condition that causes cloudiness in vision. This happens because UV rays damage the cataract on the eye’s lens. Eye cancers, including basal cell carcinoma and eyelid cancer, are also caused by UV rays. Finally, prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD), blurring vision permanently. 

Skin damage is also common. There is no UVA vs. UVB debate when it comes to how our skin is harmed: both contribute but in different ways. UV rays target your cell’s DNA and alter them to no longer function as intended. This causes wrinkles, fine lines, liver spots, and sagging skin that will likely last a lifetime. Similarly, UV rays are linked to cancerous and non-cancerous melanoma, both of which require surgery to remove. 

Woman wearing sunglasses and applying sunscreen

UVA vs. UVB: How to Stay Protected

It’s not possible (nor healthy) to avoid the sun altogether, but there are ways to minimize the damaging effects of its rays.

  • Reduce exposure amount

We need to be in the sun, but we also need a break from it. Regardless of the difference between UVA and UVB rays, to avoid damage from UV rays you need to limit your time in the sun. That doesn’t mean you need to be strict about only spending an hour outside every day, but it does mean trying to take breaks from prolonged exposure. 

You can also be conscious of covering up your skin with long-sleeved clothing and hats to help shade your face. Choose stylish sunglasses to protect your eyes and delicate skin while still looking good. Plus, you can reduce your UV ray exposure by staying out of the sun for a long time between 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest. These small adjustments can help keep your eyes and skin safe. 

  • Use SFP protection on your skin

Sunscreen is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your skin. In UVA vs UVB rays, sunscreen wins out for both. Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb or reflect UV rays so your skin won’t absorb them. To ensure you get both UVB and UVA protection, look for labels that specifically say they protect against both (this is sometimes listed as “broad spectrum”). Most dermatologists suggest getting a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 and following instructions to reapply every 90 minutes to two hours.

  • Wear sunglasses

Whether you want something extravagant or are looking for more affordable sunglasses, you need to get yourself a pair or two. Sunglasses work to reflect or block UV rays, keeping them from harming your eyes and the skin around them. When it comes to UVA vs UVB rays, your best bet for full spectrum protection is to look for a “UV400” label on your sunglasses. This level of protection blocks 99 to 100 percent of all UV rays, ensuring your eyes are safe. There are also several benefits of polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses reduce eye strain and improve clarity, making them a great pick for those who do outdoor sports or other activities that require high visibility. 

couple walking wearing sunglasses

Protect Your Face and Eyes with Privado

You can protect your eyes and skin in style with unique, fashionable frames for Privado. Not only do all of our lenses have the highest UVB and UVA protection, but they’re also hypoallergenic, scratch-resistant, and prescription-ready. It’s the best way to ensure you’re protected from all UV rays while also serving looks. 

All our stylish frames were designed by our founder and can be tried on virtually so you can ensure you have the right look for your face shape and style. And if you find more than one pair you love, you can shop guilt-free thanks to our affordable prices. Protect your face and show off your style with Privado. Shop our sunglasses online today!

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Author Bio

Laura spent nine years as a police detective before she decided to leave the force and follow her dreams of starting her own eyewear business. Privado Eyewear was founded in 2020 and specializes in providing masterfully crafted luxury eyewear designs at affordable prices. Laura’s commitment to gender-neutral styles and quality craftsmanship ensures that Privado consistently delivers top-quality products everyone will love.