Summer Sun Care – Introduction to UVA, UVB, UVC and Fitzpatrick Classification

As spring fades away and summer starts to roll in, we want you to have fun and take care of yourself with the additional sun exposure. Over the next several weeks, we will be giving you the low down on sunscreens, self-tanners, and after-sun products from Shiseido to Olay. Today, I want to introduce you to what you should be looking for in a good sunscreen and show you how understand more about your skin, its type, and how dermatologists classify it.

Fitzpatrick Classification of Skin Types:

  • Type I Always burns and never tans (extremely sensitive)
  • Type II Always burns but sometimes tans (very sensitive)
  • Type III Sometimes tans but sometimes burns (sensitive)
  • Type IV Always tans but sometimes burns (minimally sensitive)
  • Type V Always tans and never burns (not sensitive)
  • Type VI Darkly pigmented brown or black skin (not sensitive to sunlight)

The sunlight is most concentrated between late morning to early afternoon (10am to 3pm), so exposure during these hours should be limited and protected. The rays you receive are made up of UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVC is considered harmless as it rarely reaches us (tends to be absorbed by the atmosphere).

An effective sunscreen will protect against both UVA and UVB. Additionally, ingredients such as avobenzone, ecamsule, and zinc oxide are good against UVA; titanium dioxide is good, but it does not cover the entire UVA spectrum. Para-aminobenzoic acid, Para-aminobenzoic acid esters, salicylates, anthranilates, and benzophenones are good for sunscreening (Source).

You can get a full list of FDA approved active ingredients in sunscreens here.