What are UVA and UVB rays and why are they so dangerous?

Summer is the optimal time to continue to educate your friends and family members of the potential dangers of excessive UV exposure throughout the warm weather months. As the primary wavelengths of natural light that contribute to sunburn, skin cancer and immune system suppression, UVA and UVB rays are major health considerations during the summer. But how are they dangerous when you're out enjoying the gorgeous summer weather and what's the best way to protect your family?

As summer kicks off, arm yourself with the knowledge to shield your loved ones from dangerous UV rays, as well as using your Flexible Spending Account (FSA) on qualifying sun protection products! Visit FSAstore.com today to choose from a wide selection of FSA eligible sun care products.

What are UVA/UVB rays?

Ultraviolet rays are the specific wavelengths of visible light that cause sunburn and skin damage, and excessive exposure can lead to potentially life-threatening melanoma and other skin cancers over time.

The primary UV rays are:

UVA Rays – These long wave rays do not cause sunburns, but they penetrate far deeper through the skin than UVB rays and can contribute to skin cancer formation. UVA rays are known to play a major role in skin aging and wrinkling (photoaging), and they are the catalyst for the body becoming tan after long-term sun exposure. Unlike UVB rays, UVA rays do not vary in intensity despite factors like season, time of day, altitude and location, and they can also penetrate window glass. Tanning booths primarily emit UVA rays as much as 12 times that of the sun, which could lead to extensive damage to the skin's DNA over time.

UVB Rays – These short wave light wavelengths affect the outermost layer of skin called the epidermis, and are the primary causes of sunburn, skin damage and skin cancers. UVB can also be absorbed off of reflective surfaces like sand, water, concrete and snow, which can cause additional skin damage, but window glass will block most UVB radiation. While UVB rays can damage skin year-round, they are far stronger during the spring and summer months, especially during the daytime hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is its strongest.

How can I protect myself and my family?

In addition to monitoring how much time your family members are spending in the sun and avoiding peak times of the day, choosing the right sunscreen is the primary means of safeguarding your loved ones. Here are a few key selling points from the American Academy of Dermatology to help you make an informed sunscreen choice.

1. Broad spectrum protection – This feature refers to products that provide protection from both UVA and UVB rays, and it should be at the top of your list when choosing a sunscreen.

2. SPF 30 or greater – SPF, or a sunscreen's Sun Protection Factor, should always exceed 30 or more to provide optimal protection in myriad environments.

3. Waterproof – Even if you're not heading to the beach, sweat can limit the effectiveness of sunscreen over time. Opt for a waterproof product that will give you peace of mind in any situation.

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