Suncare 101: What Is Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen?

No sunscreen offers 100% protection from the sun. But if you are searching for the best SPF products to keep your skin safe from the sun's harmful rays, broad-spectrum sunscreen is the way to go.

What is broad-spectrum sunscreen? Broad-spectrum sunscreen offers protection from UVA and UVB rays.

UVB rays are well-known for their skin cancer-causing abilities. UVA rays may not be as closely associated with skin cancer. Still, they are responsible for causing premature signs of aging.

Suncare is one of the most crucial steps in your skincare routine. Learn why you should always use broad-spectrum SPF and brands to shop in this guide.

UV Rays: Explained

The sun produces various wavelengths of light, including some that we can't see with the naked eye. These invisible wavelengths include ultra-low-frequency infrared light and super-high-frequency ultraviolet (UV) light.

Of these invisible wavelengths of light, we know the most about UV light's potential for harm. The sun produces three types of UV light. Two of them can be extremely damaging to the skin.

Learn more about the three types of wavelengths of UV light the sun emits next.

UVA Rays

UVA rays have the longest wavelength of the three types. They make up the majority of UV rays that reach the Earth's surface and are capable of penetrating deep into the skin.

The most common symptom of excess UVA exposure is skin aging. However, experts suggest they may play a bigger role in the development of skin cancer than we may realize.

UVB Rays

UVB rays are in the middle range in terms of wavelength. They are the second-most common UV rays at the Earth's surface. Though they don't reach as deep into the skin as UVA rays, they are the main risk factor for skin cancer.

Importantly, the sun is not the only source of these cancer-causing UV rays. Sunbeds, also known as tanning beds, also emit this kind of light. That explains why people who use them have an increased risk of skin cancer.

UVC Rays

UVC rays have the shortest wavelength and the highest potential for damage to human skin. The good news is that the atmosphere prevents these sun rays from reaching the Earth's surface.

The bad news? With the ongoing depletion of the ozone layer due to global warming, there is a potential risk of UVC rays making it through the atmosphere and reaching the Earth's surface.

The Benefits of Wearing Sunscreen

Scientists have only started to understand the risks of UV exposure over the past 100 years or so. It makes sense, then, that sunscreen has only been around since the 1930s.

Today's sun protection products have advanced, with many offering broad protection against the sun's most harmful rays. Wearing sunscreen is now a part of many people's daily routine.

If you don't wear sunscreen, you may wonder about all the hype. Here are the top benefits that may make you reconsider your SPF use.

Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancer

We've alluded to this one already. Wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to lower your risk of skin cancer. It prevents sunburns and reduces UV damage to skin cells, both of which are risk factors for the most common types of skin cancer.

Prevent Premature Signs of Aging

Signs of aging, such as wrinkles and saggy skin, are products of UV damage. UVA rays, in particular, can destroy collagen and elastin proteins. These proteins are crucial for maintaining firm, supple, and youthful-looking skin.

Combat Hyperpigmentation and Discoloration

Other side effects of too much UVA exposure are blotchy skin, sun spots, and dark patches. Even people with deeper skin who have some natural protection against the sun are prone to UV-related hyperpigmentation.

Types of Sunscreen

Want to prevent signs of aging and lower your risk of skin cancer? It begins with choosing the right suncare products. But that can feel like a major challenge, especially considering how many options are available.

To help you out, we are explaining the various sunscreen types and their benefits. Read on to learn more.

SPF Ratings

Experts recommend buying sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. SPF stands for sun protection factor. It refers to the percentage of UVB rays the product can block.

The strongest UV protection a sunscreen can offer is SPF 50+. People who have more than one risk factor for skin cancer should consider upgrading to SPF 50+ products for ultimate UVB ray protection.

If you are concerned about UVA exposure, look for products with a star rating in the UK or with "UVA" inside a circle on sunscreen in the EU.

Chemical vs. Physical

Chemical and physical sunscreens contain different but equally effective UV-blocking ingredients. Chemical sunscreens utilize sun-reflecting particles like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens use UV-absorbant chemicals like avobenzone, octocrylene, or oxybenzone.

Chemical sunscreens are best for deeper skin tones since they don't produce a white cast. Meanwhile, physical sunscreens are less irritating, making them perfect for people with acne-prone or sensitive skin types. Plus, physical sunscreens are non-toxic and safer for the environment.

Formulation Types

Sunscreen comes in a variety of formulas. Perhaps the most well-known is sun lotion or cream. But there are also gel, spray, stick, and serum products. Powdered sunscreen is another increasingly popular option for touchups over makeup throughout the day.

But which formula is best? The answer is that it depends. Lotions and sprays are ideal for quick and easy full-body application, while a gel or serum may pair better under makeup. Powder sunscreen is excellent for applying over makeup after applying a gel or serum sunscreen in the morning.

Broad-Spectrum vs. Non-Broad Spectrum

Not all sunscreens are broad-spectrum, meaning they block UVA and UVB rays. Some sunscreens only target one or the other.

The problem with sunscreens that only target UVA rays is that they don't reduce your risk of skin cancer. Non-broad spectrum sunscreens that only target UVB rays are better, but not if you're trying to prevent signs of aging.

Don't risk it. Always buy a broad-spectrum sunscreen product to safeguard yourself against cancer, aging, and other unwanted side effects of UV exposure.

What Is Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen?

Broad-spectrum sunscreen is a suncare product that protects against UVA and UVB rays. It does not block UVC rays, but, as you may recall, this type of damaging sunlight doesn't reach the Earth's surface.

"Broad-spectrum" is a regulated term in the UK and EU. Manufacturers must submit their products for rigorous testing to demonstrate their adherence to regulatory standards. Only then can a brand call its sunscreen broad-spectrum.

In the UK, that means the UVA and UVB protection factors must be equal. In the EU, broad-spectrum sunscreens must have a minimum UVA protection factor of at least one-third of the SPF or UVB protection factor.

Top Broad-Spectrum Sunscreens

Are you searching for the best broad-spectrum suncare products? We rounded up five of our best-selling UVA/UVB protection sunscreens and curated them for you below. Check them out to find your new favorite sun cream.

IsNtree Hyaluronic Acid Watery Sun Gel

IsNtree markets this chemical sunscreen as a wide spectrum option, but don't worry: wide spectrum is the equivalent of broad spectrum. The product offers 50+ SPF protection against UVA/UVB rays. With eight types of hyaluronic acid, it is the perfect daily solution for people with dry skin.

EltaMD UV Clear SPF

EltaMD is a dermatologist-recommended skincare line. The brand's SPF 46 broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen is ideal for sensitive skin types, especially those prone to breakouts or rosacea. Even though it is a physical sunscreen, the lightweight gel formula leaves less white residue than alternatives.

Beauty of Joseon Relief Sun SPF

Beauty of Joseon is a Korean skincare brand specializing in organic products. Its Rice + Probiotics Sunscreen offers broad-spectrum SPF 50+ and PA++++ protection. It is a chemical sunscreen, but people with dry, sensitive skin will appreciate the gentle formula and nourishing actives.

Kanebo ALLIE Extra UV Gel

ALLIE is the skincare brand of the Japanese cosmetics company Kanebo. Is Extra UV Gel sunscreen offers SPF 50+ and PA++++ protection from UVA and rays. This is the broad-spectrum sunscreen to choose for summertime wear or going to the gym since it is water and sweat-resistant.

Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF

Biore's SPF 50+ PA++++ sunscreen offers full protection from UVA and UVB rays. Even though it's a chemical sunscreen, it is ideal for all skin tones and types. The fragrance-free gel formula is safe for people with sensitive skin types and prevents white cast for people with deeper skin tones.

Find the Highest-Quality Suncare at Minou and Lily

So, what is broad-spectrum sunscreen? Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects the skin from UVA/UVB rays to prevent early signs of aging and lower the risk of skin cancer. Brands like Biore, EltaMD, and ALLIE offer high-quality options in this category.

Didn't find the right sunscreen for you in this guide? No worries because Minou and Lily has more where those came from. Check out our suncare collection to find the perfect broad-spectrum sunscreen for your skin tone and type.