Sunscreen products are a staple today, as much as a face wash or a moisturiser. No one wants to step out and get those nasty sunburns, tans, or dark spots. Exactly why you see not just a whole lot of products made exclusively to protect you from the sun, but also cosmetics, and other day creams and lotions infused with such properties too. A major determinant in the choice of sunscreens, till a while ago, was SPF. But, take a look at the newer sunguard lotions, creams, and gels and you may notice ‘PA’ with one or more ‘+’ signs marked alongside. Ever wondered what this is, and what it does for your skin? Here you go.
SPF vs. PA+, PA++, and PA+++
Ultraviolet rays (UV) present in the radiation from the sun include different wavelengths such as UVA, UVB etc. SPF or Sun Protection Factor is a measure of protection that a sunscreen product offers against UVB rays. These rays from the sun are primarily known to cause redness and sunburn. Commonly sen factors are 15, 20, 25, 30, 45, 50, and so on. The higher the SPF, the better guarded you are against such rays, and the longer it will take for your skin to burn upon exposure.
However, these aren’t the only UV rays that cause trouble on your skin. The UVA rays are even more notorious as they penetrate deeper, and cause troubles such as premature ageing. Fine lines and wrinkles may actually develop earlier as a result of constant, unprotected exposure to UVA rays. PA, which indicates the Protection Grade of a product against UVA rays, is based on Persistent Pigment Darkening method and its reading. This originated in Japan and is now widely used by Asian, as well as some European brands to indicate the efficacy of their products. The PA system simplifies, and groups the reading obtained from the PPD test method and classifies it under:
- PA+ indicates a PPD factor of 2 to less than 4
- PA++ indicates a PPD factor of 4 to less than 8
- PA+++ indicates a PPD factor of 8 to less than 16
In rare cases, a product may also have PA++++ which is a PPD rating of 16 or higher. As with SPF, the higher, the number of ‘+’es on the sunscreen product, the stronger the protection!
Choosing the right sunscreen
When picking a sunscreen product, you need to pay attention to not just the SPF, but also the PA rating that comes with it. For, you need to protect your skin not just from UVA, but also UVB rays.
In addition to the protective factors and grades, you also need to pay attention to the type and texture of the sunscreen product. Creamy sunscreens are for dry skin, while lightweight and gel-based are for oily/acne prone skin. Fragrance-free and hypoallergenic products are what you should pick if you have sensitive skin. Sweatproof and waterproof are your best friends if you engage in outdoor activities that cause you to sweat, or if you go swimming. Adequate protection does not end with choosing the right sunscreen. You need to apply it well before sun exposure and reapply frequently if you stay outdoors for a prolonged time. Spring, summer, autumn, monsoon, or winter, choose a suitable sunscreen product and keep your skin well guarded round the year.