The number one cause of premature aging is sun exposure. The good news is there’s a simple daily preventative measure that is proven to dramatically reduce skin cancer and visible signs of aging like wrinkles and sun spots: broad spectrum sunscreen.

Broad spectrum SPF refers to sunscreens that protect the skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Even with a high SPF (sun protection factor), if a sunscreen isn’t broad spectrum, you won’t be protected from all UVA rays. The current FDA SPF numbering system only identifies the amount of UVB protection a sunscreen product provides, not the amount of UVA protection. For sunscreens to be labeled as broad spectrum, the FDA requires sunscreen products to now go through a battery of tests to prove they protect from all UVA and UVB rays.

It’s important to protect from both types of UV rays because they damage your skin differently.

Think of it this way:

  • UVB has a B for “burning” – these rays cause sunburn, aging, and potentially skin cancer
  • UVA has an A for “aging” – these rays cause wrinkles and potentially skin cancer (although less than UVB) after repeated exposure. UVA rays make up more than 90% of all UV radiation, and penetrate clouds and glass, year-round.

Broad spectrum sunscreens include combinations of ingredients that protect from both types of rays. Keep an eye out for a combination of zinc oxide, octinoxate, octisalate and titanium dioxide. Different combinations of these ingredients will protect against both UVA and UVB rays for full protection.

Wearing broad spectrum protection every day, even on cloudy days or days you’ll spend inside, is the key to keeping skin healthy and avoiding premature aging like fines lines, wrinkles and sunspots, and protecting from some cancers. If you only apply one skincare product before you leave the house, make sure it’s a broad spectrum sunscreen.

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